Sample Paper on Accepting and Accommodating Religion in the Workplace

Accepting and Accommodating Religion in the Workplace: Special Attention to the Hospitality Industry

Since time immemorial, the role of religion to individuals as well as a society cannot be overemphasized. Despite the fact that the numbers of religions are as diverse as the people who follow them, the functions that they perform in people’s lives are similar. To start with, religion provides consolation and encouragement to people in times of crisis, which humans face from time to time, and thus the person achieves emotional support as well as peace, thus enabling them to face life’s problems with courage. Religion also promotes social solidarity due to the unity created by common beliefs, common worship, common sentiment, and participation in common rituals. These tend to act as cementing factors that strengthen solidarity and unity. The followers of religion have been known to internalize virtues, which mold them into disciplined members of society including honesty, truth, love, non-violence, peace, discipline, service among others. These are the basic functions that religion plays in society and for this; it has been referred to as one of the most crucial aspects of humanity (Haar & Tsuruoka, 2007).

It is this importance of religion and faith to humankind that brings forth the issue of its impact on the day-to-day operations of business organizations. Human beings, who have their own religious beliefs, run business organizations. In the United States, citizens enjoy two freedoms in respect to religion; stating that every citizen has the right to be free from a religion imposed by the government, as well as a right to practice their religion of choice. Under the same law, private employers are governed by the state and federal regulations that ban discrimination on grounds of religion, despite the fact that they are not bound by the restrictions of the constitution on government. For this reason, the huge number of employees and religious faiths in the country, and the freedom of expression enjoyed in the United States pose some tough situations for the employers and courts in the country (Kusluvan, 2003).

A country’s wide diversity of citizens creates a typical situation where employers hire workers from various countries and religious backgrounds. An ideal work environment is peaceful and diverse religious beliefs are no cause for conflict, either for the employer or for the employees. All are free to follow their religions of choice provided duties allocated are performed satisfactorily. However, this is not the case in a real workplace situation because as stated earlier, religion is core to human existence, and for this reason, religious issues must come up in one way or another for people spending a substantial amount of time together. The issues could come up in discussions, arguments, or mere comments. Instances, such as dressing styles, manner of wearing or keeping hair, attempt to recruit other people to follow their faith, praying, following particular diets, fasting, avoiding some kind of behavior or language and observation of religious holidays like Christmas could spark the discussions and arguments, which could lead to more grave conditions ranging from disagreement, harassment and major conflict between employees and employers (Adl.org).

Federal law applies to organizations with workers in excess of 15 employees, though many local and state employment laws also tend to protect workers from much smaller firms. Employers have also realized that in addition to the legal requirement to accommodate religious employees, a commitment to religious accommodation can improve employee morale and help retain valued religious workers. However, Title VII’s intention is to accommodate and protect employees whose religious beliefs are sincere, and not in any way bent towards political or other beliefs that are not related to religion. Therefore, religious accommodation regulations are not applicable to requirements that are based on individual preferences rooted in other bases that are not theological in nature including politics, heritage, or culture (Gregory, 2011).

In most instances, the conflicts could be passed on to clients and customers of the business and this could create major setbacks for the organization. Employee-to-employee or employee-to-employee conflicts are detrimental but when the same is passed to clients of the business, this could be the last straw to the business. This is due to the fact that customers and clients bring in revenue for the business, and in case this is interfered with for whatever reason, the business could fail. The hospitality industry is one such industry that could be adversely affected by religion, due to the fact that personal and individual preferences are directly affected in the day-to-day operations (Bundwar & Debrah, 2001).

This brings up the thesis of the research, which states that “While the Civil Right Act prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace, accommodating and appreciating religion in the workplace is still a challenge in the hospitality industry due to the unique operating characteristics”

The hospitality industry requires an employee to offer personalized service to an individual irrespective of their religion or belief. This is the reason why accommodating and appreciating religion in the workplace is still a challenge in the hospitality industry due to its unique operating characteristics. However, situations can be customized to fit the needs of the people being served (Sims, 2007).

Operations of food service are a radically growing component of the global hospitality industry. This means that increasingly, people are getting to serve food to people from other cultures as part of business more than was the case a few years back. This increases as people move away from home to other regions of the globe for work-related issues or for leisure. Restaurants, hotels, motels, aircraft, and trains are just some of the players in the hospitality industry experiencing clients/ customers from diversified cultural backgrounds. In foodservice, it is of essence that a person soundly understands the dietary preferences and restrictions of the local people that they are serving. Diet often reflects the lifestyles of different cultural groups that inhabit various sections of the world, with one of these lifestyles being the religious aspect, which often dictates what people should eat or avoid eating. As such, the knowledge of religious influence on people can easily assist players of the hospitality industry to better understand the needs of consumers and modify their menus where necessary (Yu, 1999).

As stated earlier, other factors, which raise controversy in religion, include mode of dressing, manner of wearing or keeping hair, attempts to recruit other people to follow their faith, praying, following particular diets, fasting, avoiding some kind of behavior or language and observation of religious holidays. In regards to modes of dressing, it is of essence that an organization becomes sensitive to the clients they serve by observing their basic religious practices and beliefs (Walker & Miller, 2010). For instance, an airline company operating in a predominantly Muslim country could introduce a conservative dress for their flight crew due to the fact that Muslims are conservative dressers whose religion does not allow short and revealing clothes. Failure to do this may not raise conflict, but it would create a situation where the local people avoid using the airline, and this results in lost business. This should be the same case in restaurants and hotels (Stephenson, Russell & Edgar, 2010).

Training of hospitality staff on the religious beliefs and practices of various religions in the globe goes a long way in ensuring that all parties are comfortable. Some practices, such as shaking hands, touching, looking at people in the eye, bowing as a form of greeting, hugging, and kissing are all perceived differently by different religions. Therefore, it is crucial that staff members are trained on issues to avoid as well as how to interpret situations as they occur, without creating an awkward situation. The aim of hospitality is to create an experience and a memory within the client, and this should be done at all costs (Hearns, Devine & Baum, 2007).

References

Anti-Defamation League. Religious Accommodation in the Workplace: Your Rights and Obligations. Retrieved on 23rd March 2014 from http://www.adl.org/assets/pdf/civil-rights/religiousfreedom/religfreeres/ReligAccommodWPlace-docx.pdf

Gregory, R.F. (2011). Encountering Religion in the Workplace: The Legal Rights and Regulations. Cornell University Press.

Budhwar, P.S. & Debrah, Y.W (2001). Human Resources in Developing Countries. Routledge.

Sims, R.R. (2007). Human Resource Management: Contemporary Issues, Challenges, and Opportunities. Information Age Publishing, Inc.

Walker, J.R. & Miller, J.E. (2010). Supervision in the Hospitality Industry: Leading Human Resources. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Stephenson, M.L., Russell, K.A. & Edgar, D. (2010). Islamic Hospitality in the UAE: Indigenization of Products and Human Capital. Journal of Islamic Marketing. 1(1); 9-24.

Kusluvan, S. (2003). Managing Employee Attitudes and Behaviors in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry. Nova Science Publishers, Inc.

Yu, L. (1999). The International Hospitality Industry Business: Management and Operations. The Haworth Pres, Inc.

Haar, G.T. & Tsuruoka, Y. (2007). Religion and Society: An Agenda for the 21st Century. Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Hearns, N., Devine, F. & Baum, T. (2007). The Implications of Contemporary Cultural Diversity for the Hospitality Curriculum. Education and Training. 49 (5), 350-363.