Vital Signs

Religion and the Workplace

Harassed any hirelings lately? Don't think so? Let's see. Do you refer to the office Christmas party as a "Christmas party"? Sing carols and say grace? Invite your employees to join you for church? Wear "precious feet" on your lapels and plead with subordinates not to abort? Lead morning prayers over the P.A. system? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and federal courts want to nail your hide to the wall, and you just had a narrow escape—for now. Moreover, the just-concluded struggle between the EEOC and Congress raises the question of who really rules Washington.

At issue is whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act can be used by the EEOC against the First Amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion so as to eradicate religious expression in the workplace. The snake in the grass is a seemingly innocuous document in the Federal Register, the publication in which the new rules annually proposed by Leviathan first appear. The EEOC published its proposed "Guidelines on Harassment Based on Race, Color, Religion, Gender, National Origin, Age, or Disability" on October 1, 1993. The guidelines set out the EEOC's standards for illegal harassment in the workplace and derive from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee in his compensation or terms of employment on account of, inter alia, his religion.


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