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Religious Inclusion in the Workplace

Sascha Butler, Office Director, WEBB Advisory Group

Disrupting stereotypes when it comes to religion in the workplace, among your employees, is something today’s employer needs to spend time focusing on. If employers are focusing on Inclusion, they must think of the diversity and inclusion in religious differences and how and when people worship even during the workday.

Human Resources and workplace leadership must discuss the treatment of employees that worship differently. Those who are a part of and practice the Muslim faith often find it difficult to practice their faith during the workday.

Muslim religion is sacred and is as old as Christianity. However, it is one of the most disparaged religions in the US. And this became heightened and polarized after 9/11.

And more often than not religion is excluded from the inclusion discussion.

Employers must help break the stereotype that perpetuates the thinking that people that practice the Muslim faith are all evil. Why? Because stereotyping is dangerous. And other religions like Christianity have had their fair share of evil done in the name of religion.

One that comes to mind is Timothy McVeigh, who had ideological religious beliefs, that led him to side with the Branch Davidians in Waco, and plan and carry out the Oklahoma City bombing.

Employers have to be aware if they have employees who are feeling excluded. And fellow employees must be held accountable in ensuring that they do not talk about or disrespect someone that wears a hijab.

And the Hijab should be included in what is permitted to be worn in the company’s dress code. Employers should also be aware in respecting the religion that those practicing the faith of the Muslim religion pray five times a day, at sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset and a night prayer.

If an employee's job allows them to safely go pray, it should be allowed. There will be times when it is not appropriate for the prayer to take place, i.e – a pilot flying can’t have their sunrise prayer, while piloting a plane carrying 300 people, or even a doctor in the middle of performing open heart surgery can’t go do their prayer. However, employers should try to accommodate any employees' religious beliefs if at all possible.

Employers may also need to provide sensitivity training or inclusion classes if an employee complains that fellow employees are making them uncomfortable for their religious beliefs. And the employee should not be ignored if they bring these feelings to their employers.

Every employee with different religious beliefs should be recognized and accommodated, if it doesn’t interfere with the function of their job. If an employee brings complaints about another employee making them feel uncomfortable, it needs to not be ignored. Employees have the right to be heard and understood, and work in an environment of inclusion.

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