The United States Department of Labor (DOL) has very clear guidelines when it comes to religious expression in the workplace. They are intended to guarantee that “all agency employees shall be treated with the same respect and consideration, regardless of their religion (or lack thereof).” The DOL realizes that employees will engage in active conservations regarding current events, entertainment, and politics. Likewise, they will also discuss religion and are allowed religious expression in the workplace.
Private Work Areas
In the private work area (an area not regularly open to the public), the DOL allows religious expression to the same extent that non-religious private expression is allowed. Supervisors are allowed to limit religious expression if it interferes with the agency’s ability to do its work properly. However the restriction is not to be of the content or viewpoints of the religious expression.
For example the supervisor may ban posters in general, regardless of content, but may not specifically ban or endorse the hanging of religious/anti-religious posters.
Public Work Areas
In areas accessible to the public it is important that there is no impression that the government itself is endorsing or sponsoring a religion or for that matter prohibiting religion. Favoring or disfavoring a particular religion is also not allowed. However personal religious expression is still allowed in public workplaces if it is clear that it is that of an employee acting in a personal capacity and not on behalf of the government. Employees may wear religious jewelry as long as there is no existing ban on jewelry for safety reasons. Specifically religious art or literature is not to be favored or disfavored in a public work area.
Religious Expression with Regard to Co-workers
Religious expression and conversation is permissible in the same way that employees express themselves about non-religious issues. General discussion of religious views in cafeterias and hallways is permitted, as is clothing displaying religious messages.
However if the religious expression is directed at a co-worker and the co-worker asks that it stop, then the employee must refrain from such expression. If the unwelcome behavior continues it may be taken as unlawful religious harassment.
Supervisors are in a particularly delicate position. They have the same right to religious expression, but because of their position of authority they must be careful that their religious expression is not misconstrued as coercive. They may not use their authority to include religious expression as a requirement for employment, or conversely discourage religious expression for the same.
Departments and agencies have the right to determine what is appropriate in their official correspondence, this includes email messages. Supervisors may limit correspondence strictly to the business matter being discussed and bar the inclusion of extraneous information religious or otherwise.
Typically many agencies organize end-of-year festivities in December during work hours. Many of these gatherings include decorations like Christmas trees and lights which have been deemed secular symbols by the Supreme Court. However the DOL recognizes the diversity of their employees and encourages supervisors to plan end-of-year functions in an inclusive spirit.
Cherry Hill Discrimination Lawyers at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. Fight for Freedom of Religious Expression
If you need a Cherry Hill discrimination lawyer, the attorneys at McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. can provide you with skilled and personalized representation. Call us at 856-985-9800 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation about your case. We have offices in Red Bank and Marlton, New Jersey serving clients throughout the state.