Saturday, September 20, 2008

Religion in the workplace

Being an employer in this era of increasing cultural and religious diversity must be quite frustrating with believers of all types demanding fair time for their gods and magical rituals and traditions. Often, it isn’t enough just to have a day off from work for mythological reasons, but increasingly the delusional want to bring religious rituals into work hours which then cuts into production time and burdens other workers with having to pick up the slack. If time was given to every person who wanted special consideration for their delusional beliefs, nothing would ever get done.

Last week, Somali workers at a Colorado meatpacking plant went apeshit over not being allowed time during work hours for prayers during the Muslim observance of Ramadan. Apparently the great and mighty Allah cannot hear their mutterings while working or doing anything else, and this Allah apparently only hears prayer mutterings at magical times of day. We’re not talking a handful of people in this case, we are talking about 220 employees who want to stop working to pray or murmur or pick their ass, whatever. Before someone calls me “intolerant”, I have been a boss and though some have “true delusions”, many more use that special preference to escape from work for a bit.

Christians get special days off, so do Jews for religious observances. Now the Muslims want special breaks from work and who knows what next…carpeted prayer rooms like they are demanding in airports and schools? Who is going to be left to actually do any work? Atheists?

In this case, the company did try to accommodate their sunset prayer delusions by changing break time of the afternoon shift from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. but that wasn’t good enough, and workers who took unapproved breaks earlier were fired. Now the workers who were fired are bitching and complaining and even getting violent about not having a job to pay for food for their families. They wouldn’t dare stop to even think that their sky boss doesn’t come by to feed them or anything for their loyalty. They will starve without a job given to them by their employers who in turn gives them money to maintain their households. No god comes. Yet they risk their jobs for their pointless beliefs and cry persecution when they aren’t given preferential treatment.

Colo. plant and Somali workers fight over prayer

“With any new ethnic or religious groups, there is an adjustment period as the group becomes part of the American social fabric,”

says one supporter of the delusional fired workers.

And like I asked above, if more and more ethnic and religious groups demand more and more time away from the job for their traditions and magical rituals and special days, who is going to be left to do the job? Atheists? How about we start demanding time for sacred napping or time to get in touch with our inner selves or something? Then bitch and protest till we get our way.


Tommy said...

The idea of practicing Muslims working in a meat plant during Ramadan strikes me as bizarre.

Let's see now. You're not allowed to eat from sunup to sundown, but you will work with meat. Sounds like a recipe for catastrophe already.

Jewish Atheist said...

I think a fair and open society should grant workers some leeway for that sort of thing. Now obviously, if they wanted to take the entire Ramadan off of work or something, that couldn't work, but I don't see a problem with working something out so that people can have reasonable breaks to pray.

Religion's stupid, but people take it very seriously. Diverse societies have to be tolerant.

Stardust said...

Jewish atheist, tolerance in a diverse society is one thing, but that is what churches, mosques and temples are for. At what point do we stop making special accommodations for the religious? How far will it go? If your religion interferes with the regular workplace then that is not the company's problem. I cannot see making exceptions for people's delusions. It's going to get to the point of ridiculous if we keep going the way we are. Muslims get their way about Ramadan, then the next thing you know they will want prayer rooms and time allowed to go say their prayers to Mecca five times a day. Like we have seen with the Christians, give the religious an inch and they always want more.

Jewish Atheist said...

Just because they may make unreasonable demands in the future doesn't mean we can't respond to their relatively reasonable demands now.

CyberKitten said...

stardust said: Muslims get their way about Ramadan, then the next thing you know they will want prayer rooms and time allowed to go say their prayers to Mecca five times a day.

We have a multi-faith room at work which is presumably used for such a purpose (it has an arrow on the wall pointing to Mecca). Personally I have no problem with this. Its not any different from allowing people to go outside for a cigarette 5 times a day. As long as they do their work and do their hours I don't think it matters what else they do during their work day.

Stardust said...

This is a diverse nation, but the religious are taking control of everything and it where will it all end? We're practically a theocracy already even with all of our watchdogging and protesting.

One thing I find puzzling is that if we keep the criticisms to just Xians then people agree with me 100%. But when it is Islam we are talking about, then we must be tolerant. I don't get that at all. Are people afraid of Islam so think by appeasing them that they will be satisfied? It never ends with the religions of Abraham.

Whatever happened to go to work and do your job. Religious observances were on your own time in the home and churches. . Whatever happened to the religious folks respecting our diverse nation???? They don't. Each one wants special privileges and consideration and screw everyone else because what they believe is true.

Employers began giving days off for Christmas, then the Jews wanted their days, and now the Muslims want their days. Then with all the other religions there won't be anyone doing anything but religious bullshit.

Stardust said...

As for smoking, most people smoke on company designated breaks, or are supposed to and if they get caught (as my husband sometimes catches his employees sneaking out for a smoke) they are reprimanded for it. Smokers aren't asking for special cigarette worshiping times and rooms.

Anonymous said...

Its funny how the Xmas holidays are observed, but when other religions want to get in the act, even you - my dear Starry - get upset. Frankly, since I shudder at the idea that our once great nation of ours will become a "christian nation" because of the Jeebus freaks, I would rather other religions get into the act and present other equally ridiculous religious observations.

But we atheists will have to demand some sort of day off as well. Like making the first day of summer an atheist holiday where every atheist is allowed to take off work and run around naked, since its usually atheists that don't have hang-ups about nudity.

Ya know, I like that idea! lol

Stardust said...

I would rather other religions get into the act and present other equally ridiculous religious observations.

But, like I said, where will it end? With people working less and less time and spending more time observing superstitious sacred days,the list is going to get quite long and what's the employer to do? I think it will lead, as it probably is already, to discriminatory hiring practices because the owners are not going to want to cater to all of these superstitious needy people.

We already have way too many observed special days and events. The Christians have theirs, and for a long time kids even got to leave early from regular school to go to religious brainwashing catechism classes at their local mythology temples. Teachers kept saying how disruptive that was and Wednesday afternoons were so boring since all we could do was color or something with so many missing kids. And we all were complaining why couldn't we leave too! So, the school administrations said no more...the superstitious would have to change the way they do things and have it after school hours or on the weekend.

Employers should have the right to say if they want these religious practices to go on during work hours or not. If they do, fine, but if they don't, then that should be their right. In this case, the employer tried to accommodate them, but it wasn't good enough. Maybe there is a good reason why 220 employees cannot take a break at sunset? I know there are machines and things running at certain times in my husband's plant and breaks are not allowed...maybe the meat packing company had pick ups or deliveries and needed all hands on deck at the time the employees want to take their voo doo break? When these superstitious beliefs interfere with production, and hinder you doing your job, then it's time to find a job during the hours that will allow for your praying to Allah five, six seven times a day...whatever.

Stardust said...

And another point I want to make, at all the places I have ever worked, while we had Xmas off, no Christians I have ever worked with demanded special breaks for prayers with their magic carpets, no requests for chapels and special rooms, no special diets requested, etc. There are problems with them wanting to interject their magical prayers in schools, and the creationism bullcrap, but we are fighting against that...continually, and usually winning those cases.

We have to keep nipping this religious nonsense in the bud.

Jewish Atheist said...

Just as an idea where I'm coming from, everybody I grew up with had to negotiate with employers for religious holidays, leaving early on Fridays in the winter, etc. It's not because your post is about Muslims that I gave my answer, but because I grew up with Orthodox Jews.

Stardust said...

Jewish Atheist, I see. I didn't mean to offend you with my comment about being afraid of muslims, but the Bush administration has been quite successful with instilling that fear factor into people's minds.

You just pointed out yet another religion out of many, many religions in the U.S. that have long lists of special days and magical practices and if they all start demanding their time, then from an employer's perspective it's going to be a freakin' nightmare. Will employees start having to show legitimate documentation that they actually belong to and are active participants in their religious so as to avoid abuse and taking advantage of the employer? This could all really get far, far out of control.

A recent commenter at GifS had some excellent points speaking from a management perspective (my husband, being head of maintenance and production of a fairly good-sized company can relate) says:

I was a member of management. I’ve learned from experience that once the government gravy train is passed around, it takes but a nanosecond before someone starts abusing it. I don’t know what it is about human nature that causes so many of us to take more than we deserve if we can get away with it, but it certainly runs counter to morals taught by all these religions. From my experience, religious people are just as likely as anyone else to abuse a system. Those workers sitting at their desks with their Bibles prominantly displayed were not always the most honest ones working for me. In fact, I trusted them less because it seemed to me that they felt their “sins” were approved because they were “believers”. From FML abuse, to sick time abuse to just plain not working abuse, the religious were right up there with the most abusive among us. I’m sure it won’t be long before Muslims will get government sanctioned, paid time off for their prayers. It won’t be long afterwards that many of these Muslims will call going to their car to have a paid nap, “prayer time.”

How awful are their gods that they can't understand that their little creatures must make a living for their families? And how insecure are these people that they cannot live without their superstitions?

I can see if a company willingly wants to have a good report with their employees and it is the type of business that can accommodate all their crazy ass beliefs, but in production down time means not meeting deadlines, and when people are not pulling their weight, for whatever reasons they are slacking, even when they are not on the job for constant illness or if they are just too weak or lazy to perform their tasks and the company is losing money because of it, then those employees are let go.

Too many people use too damn many excuses to get out of work. They will use anything. Most of these people are not even devout followers of their "faith".

Jewish Atheist said...


Religious people are generally required to make up the time they miss for religious reasons. It's not like they're getting paid 40 hours for 30 hours of work.

I understand that for some jobs, this kind of thing is just not possible, but whenever it is possible, I think it's important to be flexible.

Stardust said...

Jewish Atheist,

My husband says in this particular instance with the Somalians in the meat-packing plant, the production schedule is crucial and you cannot have a bunch of people leaving the production line to go pray, take a leak or whatever excuse they have to leave. If certain people leave, production comes to a standstill. My husband's company feels that if your religious beliefs are going to interfere with the job they are paid for to do, then they need to go find another job. Something with less of a strict schedule and deadlines.

And the main point I want to make is if we keep feeding or catering to people's superstitious beliefs how can we ever hope for a truly secular society? This is a free country and people can believe in aliens living in volcanos if they want to, but they shouldn't demand employers give them equal time to pray to the volcano gods. With all the gods of human imagination, this could get extremely out of hand. Before you know it we will be giving kids breaks to go to Jedi practice.

Jewish Atheist said...

And the main point I want to make is if we keep feeding or catering to people's superstitious beliefs how can we ever hope for a truly secular society?

A secular society is not the same thing as an atheistic one. Secular means we live and let live and don't let government take any sides regarding religion.

Stardust said...

. Secular means we live and let live and don't let government take any sides regarding religion.

Which then would make it easier to maintain a secular society if we don't try to accommodate religious demands for special considerations and privileges. Secular means not being bound by monastic vows or rules -- non-theistic.

Taking into account all the many, many religions there are, this is getting to be too much to keep up with.

Like the commenter who I quoted above stated, we've opened a big can of worms. How does an employer control abuse of the religious accommodations? How does one keep track of it all? What is to be done about the other religious whackery requests that will follow, and as a past manager of a department, I know they indeed will come in the future. Do we ask for documentation to prove one's faith? Look how much time is being spent trying to figure this shit out, and money lost in production. Even if those workers are not being compensated for the breaks they want to take, the burden goes to other workers and it does affect business.

Have to look at this how things will escalate in the long run. With so many, many beliefs, if we started accommodating every single religious sect or belief that demands it, it is going to be totally ridiculous. It eventually will come to a point where ALL religious observations will be discontinued, and that may cause an uproar with the largest religious group in our land, the Christians will protest our acts of tolerance now are not going to bring about John Lennon's happy world living as one. Our religious tolerance now is just the planting of seeds for disaster.

When government forces companies to accommodate various religions, then that is chipping away at that wall of separation of church and state. This should be a matter per each individual business how they want to handle religion in their workplace since it is different from one type of company to another.

Jewish Atheist said...

So in your views should companies be allowed to forbid yarmulkas, etc.? (Assuming there's no safety issue.)

Stardust said...

So in your views should companies be allowed to forbid yarmulkas, etc.? (Assuming there's no safety issue.)

Yamulkas do not require taking time away from the job. The request doesn't require someone else to do your job while you are wearing a funny magical hat. If there is no safety issue a yamulka is no different than wearing a Bon Jovi t-shirt or a John Deere hat. But when people want to take time off to pray to their Bon Jovi gods or John Deere tractors, then that is interfering with productivity.

Stardust said...

From Fritzy at GifS. . .

I really don’t have a problem with someone going to a corner to utter their magic words, or take a holy smoking break, or whatever, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their work. That said, there are very few jobs that fit this description.

Having served a great deal of work-comp patients injured in meat-packing plants, I can honestly say it is impossible for a meat-packing plant to operate if it accomadates the mooslims’ demands for hocus-pocus breaks. The conveyor belts don’t stop for anyone, not even for Allah-peanutbutter sandwiches.

That said, I actually feel sorry for the Mooslims. It has been a long time since I’ve worked with someone of the mooslim delusion, so I forgot just how particularly OCD that religion is. It must be very frightening and anxiety inducing “knowing” that if you don’t mumble at mecca-lecca-high-mecca-highney-ho at just the right time during the day, your Cloud Cretin might punish you with eternal damnation (and not a black-eyed virgin to be found *gasp!*).

In regards to the work ethic of the religious–most of the mooslims that I have worked with were inveterate sexual harrasers–one got fired for such an infraction, but only after one of the harrassed employees threatened a lawsuit against the company.

Political Correctness is just another word for neurotic feelings of gratuitous obligation disguised as social nicety.