by Alex Palmer | September 03, 2013
As workplaces have become increasingly diverse, employees report that religious discrimination has also proven to be resilient, a new study finds. The “2013 Survey of American Workers and Religion” from Tanenbaum Center for Irreligious Understanding — a secular, non-sectarian organization dedicated to combating religious prejudice — has found that religious workers of all faiths have found a lack of accommodation at their organizations, and that this has an impact on employee morale. 

Among the survey’s findings are that 36 percent of workers have either personally experienced or witnessed some kind of religious “non-accommodation.” This was defined as one of nine forms of discrimination such as being discouraged from wearing certain styles of religion-mandated attire or religious symbols or having jokes made about one’s religious practices or dress. The most common of this religious non-accommodation was being required to work on religious holidays or the Sabbath (24 percent) or being required to attend corporate events where kosher, halal, or vegetarian options were not available (13 percent).

The survey, which drew on a random sample of 2,024 American adults, found that nearly half of non-Christian workers (49 percent) report non-accommodation of their religion at work. But almost an equal number of white evangelical employees (48 percent) said the same. The prevalence of this discrimination tends to surface more in workplaces of higher social diversity: About one-fifth of workers in places of moderate social diversity (21 percent) or high social diversity (18 percent) said they have witnessed or experienced non-accommodation. 

While the report finds little direct correlation between workplace diversity and job satisfaction, it does find that employees who feel their employers address religion and diversity issues tend to be more satisfied in their job.

“Workers who report that their companies offer materials explaining the company’s policy on religious discrimination, programs to learn about religious diversity, flexibility in work hours for religious observance, clear processes for handling employee complaints, and personal days to be used for any reason are less likely to be seeking a new job where they would be happier, and are more likely to say they look forward to coming to work,” according to the report.

For example, workers at companies which do not have a clear system for dealing with worker complaints are almost twice as likely to be looking for a new job than those at organizations that do (41 percent versus 22 percent).

The complete report can be downloaded here