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Employment Law Blog

Monday, August 21, 2006

Employee complaint or employee whining?

Check out this question that was posted in an “<a >Ask
Amy”</a> column that appeared in a variety of newspapers.

Basically, a professor at a public university - and atheist - asks whether the university must maintain a completely sterile environment with respect to religious views.  Setting aside any First Amendment issues, or those related to Title VII, common sense dictates that an employer (without a religious affiliation) establish rules that prohibit an employee from being harassed based on religious views.  Ignoring the discrimination issues, it just makes sense from a productivity standpoint.

What gets me about the questioner is the actual nature of her complaints:

Soon after I was hired, I received a desk decor gift from the department dean that included quotes from the Bible on small Post-its. I also constantly receive religious e-mails that are from the department secretary and my department chair.

Of all the horrible things that can happen to you at work, this seems to be about as minor an annoyance as you’re going to face during your work career.  I’m all for political correctness, but it has to come at a price.  In this case, that price is getting out of your chair and talking to the people who have done something that offends you.

Interestingly, the person ends her question by saying “I am not going to complain. I am afraid that it would affect my relationships at work.”  Doesn’t that all depend on how you raise the issue?  Why does it have to be a complaint and not a conversation?

I know that Human Resource Directors face these types of questions all of the time.  If I were in that position, I would tell the employee to discuss the matter privately with the people involved (this is also the advice that Amy gives).  Of course, I’m not a Human Resource Director!  For those HR Directors out there, how would you handle this complaint?  You can post a comment by clicking on the link below.


Posted by Patrick Della Valle on 08/21 at 07:00 AM
Religious Discrimination