The most fun you can have while talking about lawsuits and data….

Posted on March 25th, 2014 by

…. is participating in the Gustavus alumni event the Passion for LifeLong Learning, which I got to facilitate last Thursday, March 20th. OK– so crunching through legal decisions about Title VII religious discrimination cases is not for everyone, but wow, what a great group we had at the American Swedish Institute that night! The gist of the whole thing, really, is this:

religious diversity means disputes

What happens when religious expression in the workplace clashes? Whose right to express themselves is ‘right’ when those expressions don’t work well together? I am fascinated by the rich diversity of religion in the workplace, and how managers resolve (or, sort of, don’t) disputes among employees. And it’s not just inside organizations– there are lots of high profile cases both in and out of organizations where religious expression is taking many forms, and that creates LOTS of potential issues, like the Arizona law Jan Brewer just vetoed, and the British Airways case they lost when not allowing an employee to wear a modest cross at work. This is dicey stuff.

A hugely interesting part of my research is, how can we avoid litigation as religious diversity in the workplace increases? Especially after 9/11, employees are facing religious expressions that they not be familiar with, and that can be difficult and threatening. The EEOC devotes special attention to Muslim employees in the post-9/11 work world, and this research project outcomes indicate this is for good reason. I appreciated the great questions and conversation of the group about minimizing risk while respecting religious expression. The lawyers in the room– Ruthanne Vos ’83 and Marshall Lichty ’99 — weighed in on really important balancing acts for leaders.

I had a great time, and thanks to everyone who participated. The next one in the fall will feature Marcia Bunge, the Bernhardson Chair in Lutheran Studies. Stay tuned!


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