Religious Business

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Religious Business

Religion can be defined in many different ways and from several different viewpoints, including philosophical-theological (Plato, Kant, Foucault), sociological-political, historical-anthropological, evolutionary, psychological, or legislative. Put differently, how one defines religion depends on the particular context in which religion is considered. For a consideration of religious discrimination in the work-place, the legislative and social science perspectives are of particular interest (Major, 93).

From the legislative perspective, the protection of employees' religious rights while at the workplace falls under the concept of freedom of religion, as protected in international human rights law. In the United States, this protection is mostly derived from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and guidelines promulgated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Although different accents can be found in national and international acts and laws, they all formulate some perspective on religion, including nondiscrimination principles as well as varying forms of occupational exceptions (Douglas, 35).

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Guidelines on Discrimination Because Of Religion (29 CFR Part 1605-U.S. federal legislation), religion is defined as both beliefs and practices that are sincerely held. For example, an employer may not refuse to hire an applicant because of that person's Islamic faith (belief). Also, an employer may not fire a Muslim because of religious practices, such as breaks for prayer time during official working hours (practice). Moreover, these beliefs and practices should be sincerely held, which means that U.S. law is not confined to organized religions such as Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism (Bennett, 15). Wiccans, Pagans, and Atheists are legally protected against religious discrimination in the workplace as well.

Employers should reasonably accommodate the religious observances (beliefs and practices) of their employees unless doing so would impose an “undue hardship” upon the employer (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964). For example, a company may legally reject an applicant who refuses to cut his beard for religious reasons because of commercial and sanitary concerns (EEOC v. Sambo's of Georgia, Inc.). However, where appropriate, employers should consider accommodations to prevent or resolve religious work conflicts by offering flexible scheduling of working hours, by permitting employees to swap shifts, by relaxing grooming or clothing requirements, by transferring employees to different locations or functions, and by permitting unpaid or accrued paid absence leave due to religious needs. If there are a business necessity for certain hours or other requirements, the employer should explore the employee's accommodation needs without making any explicit inquiry or reference to religious forms as a basis of a potential conflict. Nevertheless, occupational exceptions are allowed (Major, 94). Religious schools, for example, may impose religious requirements upon the hiring of teachers and administrators.

While Weber was most interested in how customs differ among societies, recent works in economic sociology have focused on the factors that facilitate diffusion across organizations or across societies (Douglas, 36). Models of Management: Work, Authority, and Organization in a Comparative Perspective charts the spread of three important management paradigms among the United States, Britain, West Germany, and Spain. Guillén stands ...
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