Bloomberg reports that more American companies are taking initiatives to ensure that Muslim employees feel accepted and safe at the workplace including setting aside prayer rooms, organizing faith groups, and planning office parties sans alcohol.
Employment law attorney Michelle Phillips says that there are simple things companies can do to make a difference. After last year’s Paris attacks, Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield held Q&A sessions about Islam with their staff. “The value you get back from an employee who feels welcome and accommodated for their religious practices is immeasurable,” comments Ms. Phillips. “If employers don’t start taking these issues seriously, and put in measures to ensure that no one is subject to harassment, we’re going to see more claims.”
Last year, approximately 40% of religion-based workplace complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission were related to Muslim employees. Many of these issues centered around Muslim employees refusing to handle pork or alcohol at work. The courts largely ruled in favor of the Muslim employees. In January, the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed complaints against a meatpacking plant after the company terminated Muslim employees who protested about prayer break restrictions.
Mark Barnard Sr., senior vice president of Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield, says the company’s Q&A session about Islam served to dispel stereotypes and misconceptions about the faith, and called the meeting “cathartic for everyone.” Terry Howard, senior associate at the consulting firm DiversityWealth, remarks “Muslims, like everyone else, just want to be respected.”