(“Originally published on SIA Staffing Stream, April 02, 2014.”)
Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 went missing in transit, bringing the fear of terrorism back into the psyche of all of us while getting every informed person to spare a thought and a prayer for those on board.
If and when human intervention is found to be the cause of this atrocity, will emotions run high against the nationality, religion or race of the person/people involved? Apparently the answer is ‘Yes’, according to the results of a scientifically validated study conducted in France by a Stanford professor who assessed discrimination faced by Muslim job applicants! The research is now being extended to other countries like Britain. Unemployment among Muslims in Britain at 13% is three times higher than that of others; while in France at 28%, it is much higher than the 11% for all others. Not surprisingly, they are also placed much lower on the levels of average family income.
Closer to home in Quebec, Canada; the Government has decided to demonstrate its religious neutrality by prohibiting all public employees from wearing overt religious symbols to work. The rules include a strict prohibition against covering one’s face in any manner and specifically forbid certain headgear. Pictures indicate the banned headgear without alluding to the specific religion which prescribes them. These restrictions are being hotly debated as we speak.
In the U.S., the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for making it difficult for American businesses to practice such discrimination against applicants as well as workers. But, we still see discrimination suits being filed against employers by disgruntled workers who find their religious practices coming into conflict with their employer’s expectations of their work practices or personal grooming. States like California recently amended their anti-discrimination law to prevent employers from discriminatory actions such as refusing to allow workers to interact with the general public because of their dress or appearance.
Most companies understand and prevent against the most blatant and obvious forms of discrimination such as refusing to hire someone of a particular race or religion, or offering unequal compensation. However, many discriminatory practices are less obvious, and often unintentional. Let us discuss some common practices which could bring trouble to the employers’ doorstep when interviewing or employing persons of a different faith or national origin:
At all times, employers must be consistent in their practices. Corporate policies should include a code of business ethics that specifies acceptable behavior. Rules should anticipate and define accommodations to be made for religious observances. Employers should document their decisions and actions, enumerating upon the reasons behind their decisions. In developing policies, it is important for an employer to consider extenuating cases resulting from religious beliefs and practices. When rejecting a reasonable request for accommodation from a worker, the employer must have a valid reason for doing so, supported by business interests.
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