Precinct 333

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Religious Freedom v. Religious Freedom in the Workplace

Does an employer have the right to set workplace policies based upon his religion? That is an interesting question arising in a Florida case.

Lisa Morales was fired from her job with telecommunications company Rising Star for violating an unwritten policy and directives from her supervisors that pork and pork products not be eaten on the premises of the building, because the meat is "unclean" in the Islamic faith (Muslim halal rules are somewhat similar to Jewish kosher rules). She is now claiming religious discrimination, while Rising Star CEO Kujaatele Kweli indicates he is trying to accommodate all employees.

I don't have an easy answer to this one. May an employer ban conduct that he and many employees find religiously offensive? Or must he allow that conduct on the basis that it is permissible within another employees religion? And what of the very real problem of possible food contamination in a lunchroom, especially if in microwaves or on shared counter/table space? And to what degree is forbidding one type of food an illegal act of discrimination against some rather than an accommodation of others? Anyone want to give it a shot?


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