As the population of the planet increases, we are experiencing more and more diversity in countries all over the world. However, as is clearly evident in the culture wars fostered by today’s politicians, there is also more divisiveness. Inparticular, many people and groups of people fear the ever-increasing threat of xenophobia, especially in the workplace.
In fact, this is a problem that is rapidly becoming an issue across the world. With so much tension, what can we expect? What’s being done and what direction is this situation going to take?
Let’s find out.
The Ideal Work Environment
In the perfect world, diversity would be a benefit to your work environment. Employers would be free to employ anyone they chose, from any country or ethnic background without issue. Employees would be able to work side by side without conflicts based on religious beliefs.
This means everybody can go into their workplace to get their work done. Believe whatever they want, and it won’t cause a problem. However, in reality, this isn’t always the case. Friction can be easily created when different belief systems arise.
In addition to faith, there are many other aspects to consider. These can include the type of dress an individual wears. Other ways in which they treat their appearance, dietary choices, fasting routines, how they use language and even holiday periods.
In short, there are more than enough ways for people to become discriminated against, harassed and even bullied in the workplace.
The Conflict & Its Treatment Under the Law
Regardless of the reality of the workplace, there are several measures in place when it comes to how the law views this growing concern. Many private sector practices are governed by federal civil rights law and state regulations to help deter and minimize these issues.
For example, in the US, the relevant legislation that addresses these issue is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Within this act, there is the concept of “protected class” which prohibits discrimination by an employer based on several variables such as color, race, national origin, gender and religion.
“I have experienced cases of hostile workplaces throughout my career,” shares Daniel Ware, an office manager. “There are many fine lines when it comes to religious beliefs in the workplace. Even when things start off harmless, ignorance can be a huge determining factor.”
From these core considerations, there are many recognized practices and instances that the courts have deemed discriminatory and are punishable by law. These rulings cover all aspects of the workplace. They include the impact of behavior, hostile situations and disparate individual treatment.
A Brief Guide to Disparate Treatment Discrimination
Disparate treatment is the term given to a situation where an employer discriminates against an employee throughout the recruitment process. This includes both hiring and firing. This is typically the case where the employer will refuse to employ an individual based on their religious beliefs.
However, exceptions have been made where businesses, organizations and purposes are religious in nature. It can be allowed if the groups approach the groups and have the required level of proof to see whether the exception is legitimate.
However, these situations work both ways. Where there is opportunity, there are people waiting to take advantage it. There are times where an employee can take things too far, and the entire situation becomes too burdensome for the employer to handle, typically unfairly. These are typically referred to as reasonable or unreasonable requests.
For example, if an employee requested that they needed a Saturday shift swapped with somebody else due to a religious holiday. Then this would be deemed a reasonable work request. On the other hand, if an employee was requesting a month off, this will be decided on an individual circumstance, but likely viewed as an unreasonable request and burden on the employer.
How to Handle Discrimination
Unfortunately there is no one size fits all approach to dealing with discrimination. There are however a few best practices to follow when you feel as you have witnessed discrimination or are the subject of it. The first, education. Much like the topics in this article. Becoming aware of the applicable laws, policies and how they apply to your place of work if the first step. Second, educating yourself on your place of employment’s policies and tips for employees. Third, in the event you feel you have witnessed or are subject to discrimination, reporting any issues to your company’s human resources department. Finally, and this is more conceptual – tolerance and understanding. Of your beliefs and those of others.