Bringing faith and spirituality to workplace also spreading discrimination?

A new study suggests that the recent interest in bringing faith and spirituality to the workplace may be one factor behind rising rates of complaints about religious discrimination on the job. In the Review of Religious Research (March), Christopher Scheitle and Elaine Howard Ecklund note that the rate of reported complaints of workplace discrimination regarding religion has increased from 2.1 percent of all cases of workplace discrimination (1709 incidents) in 1997 to 4.0 percent (3721) in 2013, growing in both number and proportion. The issue of workplace discrimination against religion drew national controversy when the clothing retailer Abercrombie and Fitch was found liable in 2013 after it fired a Muslim employee for refusing to remove her head covering. Past research has found that specific religious identities, such as Muslim, as well as expressing religious identities, can increase the risk of workplace discrimination. But is religion discriminated against apart from specific religious identity and expression? The researchers used a survey of nearly 10,000 U.S. adults that draws on the GfK KnowledePanel, a nationally representative online panel of over 50,000 individuals and one of the few panels to ask a question about religious discrimination in the workplace.

Scheitle and Ecklund find that the frequency with which religion comes up in the workplace is positively associated with perceptions of religious discrimination. Just the presence of religion as a topic of conversation in the workplace “appears to present an independent risk of perceiving religious discrimination…moving from a workplace where religion never comes up to a workplace where religion often does almost triples the probability that an individual will perceive religious discrimination,” they write. The impact of such a dynamic on perceptions of discrimination is greater for mainline Protestants, Catholics, adherents of eastern religions (aside from Islam and Hinduism), those who are not religious, and atheists and agnostics.