Accommodating religious diversity improves workplace performance

workplacedxnchartBy Matthew Brown, Deseret News

But diversity consultants agree there is an upside to this trend. Employers who adapt to religious diversity and reduce conflict not only improve morale but improve performance by attracting the best talent from a broad range of backgrounds that can help the company appeal to a larger customer base.

"If you have more diversity and a pluralistic workforce, you have more opportunities to experience and learn different things," said Deb Dagit, a diversity consultant for industry, government and nonprofits. "As a result, the new experience process can have conflict, but you also get innovation and customer insight. If you can work through it, you get a net benefit."

Perception and reality

The survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted for the Tanenbaum Center by Public Religion Research found that religious discrimination at work is widespread and takes on different forms. One-third reported either seeing or experiencing religious bias, and 36 percent reported some form of non-accommodation, such as policies prohibiting religious clothing or beards, requiring employees to work on sabbaths or religious holidays or not providing an area for employees to pray and meditate.

Almost half the non-Christian respondents (49 percent) reported experiencing or seeing non-accommodation at their workplace. And a majority (54 percent) of all the workers surveyed said Muslims face more discrimination in society than all other groups, including gays and lesbians, racial minorities and women.

"Workplace discrimination is one of the largest categories (of bias) we see year to year," said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that since 2001 more than 20 percent of the complaints it investigates annually involve bias against Muslims, who make up less than 2 percent of the population.

Hooper said 20 years ago the discrimination against Muslims primarily involved dress codes or policies on religious holidays. Today, the conflicts are more personal, such as name calling or offending jokes.

"We don't see as much of the systemic discrimination," Hooper said. "Now it's typically personal prejudices" between employees and an employee and a supervisor. (Read the full article)


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