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Bible Reading Receptionist California

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  • #16
    I'm sorry, but I still can't agree that simply seeing a Bible is religious harassment if all that is happening is that the receptionist is reading it. Nor do I agree that the employer is promoting a religion, any religion, by permitting the employee to read it while on her breaks or lunch hour.

    I do agree that she does not have a constitutional right to be reading it on work time UNLESS she is not forbidden from reading, per se, during "down time". If that is the case I think the employer can be on shaky ground to permit reading some material but prohibiting a Bible.
    The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

    Comment


    • #17
      We will have to disagree on this one. My response flows, in part, from personal experience dealing with similar situations. They have ranged from a receptionist keeping an open Bible at her desk, to secretaries with religious sayings and pictures visible in their work stations, to employees who end their voice mail message recording with "Have a blessed day" or some other religious phrase.

      Employees and callers objected to them all, stating that they don't expect or want to be confronted with religious material when they are dealing with us. The managerial decision was that the activities had no place in the workplace.

      Comment


      • #18
        If she is allowed to read at her desk, she isn't forcing her religion on others & others aren't complaining, leave the poor lady alone.
        Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

        Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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        • #19
          But here, no one is complaining. Or if they are, the OP hasn't mentioned it.
          The above answer, whatever it is, assumes that no legally binding and enforceable contract or CBA says otherwise. If it does, then the terms of the contract or CBA apply.

          Comment


          • #20
            If the receptionist had something that could be considered sexually or racially harassing at her desk, would you wait for a complaint to instruct her to remove it?

            While the Bible may be sacred and unoffensive to some Christians and others, it's not viewed that way by everyone. It's our society's view that religious expressions don't belong in a secular workplace, especially in an increasingly religiously diverse secular workplace. As the OP noted, this is a society that requires us to say Happy Holidays, instead of Merry Christmas. We have holiday parties, instead of Christmas parties, Nativity scenes are restricted to religious places and we must celebrate/acknowledge other religious celebrations during the month of December. And, I think that's what the Founding Fathers wanted. They didn't want any particular religion fostered or promoted over another.

            Personally, I believe that Christianity is best demonstrated by how the Christian treats others and how s/he behaves. Seems to me that was Christ's focus. My grandmother always cautioned that you shouldn't need props for people to know you are a Chrisitan; it should be obvious by how you treat others. Being a Christian requires that you go out into the world as Christ did and engage others; not sit in Church all day or spend hours reading the Bible.

            Aside from my personal views, my view as an EEO practioner is that the employer can tell the employee to remove the Bible from public view and not to read it while performing her duties, without violating the federal EEO laws. The rule, of course, should be consistently applied. It does not require that the employer forbid reading any personal, non work related material. An employer can tell an employee not to read Playboy on the job, but allow the employee to read Popular Mechanics.
            Last edited by mitousmom; 04-29-2007, 04:05 AM.

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            • #21
              If the employee is getting the required work done and is not trying to enforce her beliefs on other co workers, there is no harm. Now, if the employee is doing this when he/she is supposed to be working that is a different issue. weather the person is reading the Bible, the daily paper, or whatever. As long as it is done off company time (ex: break time, lunch etc).
              Then it is no concern of yours.

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Heidi-HR View Post
                As long as it is done off company time (ex: break time, lunch etc). Then it is no concern of yours.
                The OP states "Our receptionist likes to read the bible while working at the front desk."

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by mitousmom View Post
                  Aside from my personal views, my view as an EEO practioner is that the employer can tell the employee to remove the Bible from public view and not to read it while performing her duties, without violating the federal EEO laws. The rule, of course, should be consistently applied. It does not require that the employer forbid reading any personal, non work related material. An employer can tell an employee not to read Playboy on the job, but allow the employee to read Popular Mechanics.
                  I think the issue here is that there would never be a lawsuit from an employee stating that they were not allowed to read "Playboy", it would simply be thrown out.

                  If am employee brought a suit that they were not allowed to read the bible, the company would at least have to go through all the court proceedings and so forth to dish out if it was indeed in violation of her religion.

                  So, to be one the safe side and not have to deal with any liabilities, ignoring the bible issue unless there is some sort of legitimate reason to address it would be best.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    On what basis would an employee file a lawsuit stating that she wasn't allowed to read the Bible at work?

                    The most likely vehicle would be Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. She would have sustainable lawsuit if she had informed her employer that reading the Bible at her desk while working was required by her religion and her employer wouldn't accommodate her religious belief, but could have done so without undue hardship; or the employer allowed members of other religions to read their sacred texts while working but didn't allow her.

                    Other than that, I know of no law that gives her the right to read religious materials while working and can't figure out on what she would base a lawsuit that wouldn't get dismissed.

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      I've seen (not as a lawyer, but as a person responsible for information discovery) so many EX-employees bring up lawsuits that you would roll on the floor laughing at... Yes, many get shut down quite quickly, but some are a pain in the behind to deal with. It's easier to avoid ones that won't get immediately tossed.

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Originally posted by mitousmom View Post
                        The OP states "Our receptionist likes to read the bible while working at the front desk."
                        I think the key term here is "Receptionist"... If they weren't allowed to read or use the internet in some recreational manner, most would be driven nuts by the down-time they have. Of course, some are quite busy, but that is not always the case. You want to weigh keeping a happy trustworthy employee and enforcing work rules.

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                        • #27
                          I didn't realize what crappy places some people work till I read my way through this thread.

                          I am a wonderful employer....
                          “Be not niggardly of what costs thee nothing, as courtesy, counsel, & countenance.”

                          --Benjamin Franklin

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            I am going to have to agree with both cbg and mitousmom.

                            Some foundation: The receptionist DOES NOT have any statutory right, Constitutional or otherwise, to read her Bible at work. The employer DOES NOT have to allow her to have a Bible at work, nor do they have to permit her to read it on company time, unless it would be as a religous accomodation (but she hasn't asked for that). I very much agree that a secular workplace is NO PLACE for religous displays; however, employers with missions and visions that are EXPLICITY religous aren't forbidden by law either. What IS FORBIDDEN are disciminatory employment practices.

                            Where I part ways with mitousmom, is that Title VII is very specific that the presence of pornography in the workplace is harassing; however, I have never read, nor can I find where the mere presence of religous text is harassing. If someone CAN FIND IT please post a link here.

                            The problem is that OP is giving her free time to do with as she chooses. She is engaged in a legal activity. If she were reading People magazine, this post wouldn't exist. As long as she isn't preaching, teaching, and trying to give people salvation, I don't think that anyone's rights are abriged by the mere presence of the text. HOWEVER, her rights MIGHT BE abriged by asking her to remove religous text used to pass time when you have failed to ask others to remove ALL PERSONAL LITERATURE from their workplace.

                            The OP is in VERY LIBERAL and employee friendly California. I wouldn't want to be the employer attempting to defend this case. Asking her to not to read her Bible begs the question of "WHY NOT?" If no one has complained, and she is not preaching to anyone (which can be done with or without the Bible), then what would be your reasoning? I think that the court would come to one conclusion, and one conclusion only: YOU ARE DISCRIMINATING!

                            Our wonderful moderator, cbg, asks us not to give advice only information. In this case, I'm going to give some advice, though my adivce is practical in nature and not legal.

                            Advice #1: If your concern is legitimately that others will see it, and will be offended, offer her another way to read her Bible. You can Google "download Bible free" and get all kinds of links to download the Bible to her computer. Then put one of those privacy screens over her computer monitor, so that no one can see what she is doing without getting very close to her computer.
                            She can read the Bible, and it won't be of concern to others.

                            Advice #2: You sound like you are at least a mid-level manager in this company. YOU SHOULD REALLY PICK YOUR BATTLES MORE WISELY. Let me predict for you what WILL HAPPEN should you ask her not to bring her Bible. You will be viewed as as a power-hungry, overbearing TYRANT. You will lose credibility with her, and possibly others. She is not reading "The Fine Art of Love Making" or the "Karma Sutura." She is reading the Bible.

                            Unless you have a workplace full of the emotionally devoid and morally depraved, each and every one of them has a constitutional right that they hold near and dear to them. It's part of who we are as Americans. If you take HER BIBLE away, each and every one of your employees will be able to identify with her in some way, and won't appreciate it. Your lesbians, athiests, tree huggers, and gun owners will all see how you are out to squelch their civil liberties...AND YOU CERTAINLY DON'T WANT TO GET INTO HOW MANY LIVES HAVE BEEN LOST DEFENDING THOSE FREEDOMS. I bet your sweet britches that someone at your workplace knows someone who has been over to the Iraq war to defending those freedoms (regardless of whether or not they agreed with our presence there).

                            My point is simple: If you ask her to remove THE BIBLE ONLY, you will suffer many reprocussions, of which the least costly will be legal.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Amen. Oh wait, can I say that on this forum?
                              Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                              Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Originally posted by bears00 View Post
                                Where I part ways with mitousmom, is that Title VII is very specific that the presence of pornography in the workplace is harassing; however, I have never read, nor can I find where the mere presence of religous text is harassing. If someone CAN FIND IT please post a link here.
                                You will have to point me to the section of Title VII that specifically refers to pornography in the workplace or even mentions harassment, sexual, religious, racial or otherwise.

                                The problem is that OP is giving her free time to do with as she chooses. She is engaged in a legal activity. If she were reading People magazine, this post wouldn't exist. As long as she isn't preaching, teaching, and trying to give people salvation, I don't think that anyone's rights are abriged by the mere presence of the text. HOWEVER, her rights MIGHT BE abriged by asking her to remove religous text used to pass time when you have failed to ask others to remove ALL PERSONAL LITERATURE from their workplace.
                                The receptionist is not on her free time and she's not in her home. She's at work and performing her duties as a receptionist. The EEO laws govern the workplace. People magazine is not a religious publication. It is precisely because the receptionist's reading material is religious and it's in plain view that the employer must be concerned about the impression it presents to other employees and to the public.

                                Let's say the receptionist was a Wiccan and was sitting at her receptionist's desk reading the Book of Shadows, the religious text of the Wicca, which has a big Pentagram on the front. [Wicca is an accepted bona fide religion recognized by the Courts and the federal government.] Would you all have the same view?

                                Given the very liberal views in CA in general and the liberal interpretations of the Federal District and Appellate Courts, I would guess that a lawsuit filed by the receptionist would have less traction there than in most places in the country.

                                Comment

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