Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Ultimate Hornet Nest

Especially here in Utah: religion in the workplace.

This is just a quick intro to the topic.  I shall return to it repeatedly because it causes so many headaches for employers and employees alike.

The thing that prompts this post is an article in last Saturday's Salt Lake Tribune by Corey J. Hodges, senior pastor at New Pilgrim Baptist Church in Taylorsville, titled "Colts show how to achieve success 'the Lord's way'."  The article is about regular prayer meetings and other religious infusions into the Baltimore Colts operation by team owner Jim Irsay and head coach Tony Dungy, both evangelical Christians.  All players are expected to join the lockerroom prayers.

Why is it so hard to see a problem with this?  If an employer imposes religious practices in the workplace, it means one of two things: 1) the employer thinks all his employees believe as he does, or 2) the employer is willing to split his workplace into "believers" and "nonbelievers."  Neither option makes much business and even less legal sense.  Imposing religion in the workplace will lead to discrimination, or at least the appearance of it, and that means trouble for the employer.

Let's look at the Colts.  When it comes time to cut players, and the coaches are down to those last intangibles, who will get the benefit of the doubt, the "believers" or the "nonbelievers"?  Are the coaches so solidly unbiased they're sure it won't make a difference?  When the ranks of "nonbelievers" dwindle for the benefit of "believers," how long will it take for the players' union to start filing grievances.

If you are an employer, your job at work is to be the boss, not the minister.  Stick to your job description.