I am an attorney practicing in the Chicagoland area.  Other than in my first year of practice, I have always practiced in my own firm, so I have never had the occasion to experience workplace discrimination from co-workers and/or employers.

I read a discussion started by Mark Maraz in which several people related the stories of their workplace experiences, and I was shocked.  Having employed people of several different religions, it turns my stomach to think that any employer would tolerate or condone such divisive behavior.

Does anyone have similar experiences that they want to share?  I am very interested to hear what working life in America is like (outside of my office, that is).

Tags: boss, co-worker, discrimination, workplace

Views: 200

Replies to This Discussion

Well, I can only speak for my little corner of corporate America, but here goes.

I worked for 3 years for a rather large (about 1,000 employees.....large for Mississippi standards) in Jackson, Mississippi. Most employees were obviously fundamentalist christian and knew full well of my atheism, but accepted me for what I am. The rank and file were quite accepting of my lack of belief. Granted, they were curious and asked me alot about how I became an athiest, almost like they had never seen a "real" atheist before, but there was never any animosity. I never felt uncomfortable explaining to them what I believed or didn't believe.

Management, however, was a different story. The HR department had an "Employee Relations Manager" whose job description was to monitor employee morale, look for ways to improve the work-life experience, and increase employee retention. I didn't find this too odd, as a lot of companies work hard to retain talent. The reality was much different. This person was an ordained baptist minister whose attempts at improving employee morale was nothing more than poorly disguised evangelism.

He sponsored weekly bible studies in the corporate headquarters. Most corporate events, such as christmas parties, recruiting events, always included prayer. He coached the company softball team and insisted on prayer with the opposing team at home plate following the game. I didn't complain, but simply refused to participate in the religious events and went about my business.

Soon, I began to get frequent visits from him at my office. First he would ask innocent questions like "How's the family?" or "How was your move to the area?" (I had moved in from out of state) then graduate to "Have you found a christian home here?" (meaning a church) or "How is your relationship with jesus christ?" Obviously, his intent wasn't to improve employee morale, but to evangelize his faith.

Oddly enough, I never found it offensive or divisive (maybe a little annoying at times when I'm trying to get some work done). Yes, I was in the minority in being the only atheist, but just like we expect christians and the like to accept our non belief, I accept their belief as well. In fact, I welcomed the opportunity to engage in the debate. "No, I haven't accepted jesus christ as my personal savior," I'd ask, "Why should I?" He'd start his pitch for his faith, which I countered with reasoned arguments. He quite often left with no answer to his own questions. Had I stayed with the company, I'm convinced I would have convinced him to become an atheist as well.

A word of advice to all atheists: Take advantage of an opportunity to debate a christian. When they walk away angry, they're not angry at you. They're frustrated that they can't back up their faith with reason. When they do that, you're leading that person, even just a little bit, down a road of reason and, eventually, emotional freedom.
Great Story. I used to enjoy debating Christians. I stopped when it began to feel a bit like debating 6 year olds about whether Santa Claus is real.

Mostly these days I want to stop people in positions of power over others from using that power to inflict stupidity on the world. It sounds like you were a sort of alien being to your co-workers. I am curious if you think that anyone knew that you were an atheist before you were hired. I find that many faith-laden people are visibly confused when they learn that I am an atheist, because they don't seem to be able to understand how someone they like could not believe in God. So how did the general knowledge about your non-belief unfold in your workplace?
I've not had the misfortune of being discriminated against for my unbelief. Both my manager and supervisor must know, and I haven't heard a peep out of them about it. I happen to be one of the most productive employees on my shift, so that speaks for something.
Funny things is, the other most productive members on my shift don't happen to believe either, so management may know that doing such a thing would put them out of some good talent.
I think that most people would be more productive in general if not hobbled with the requirement that they believe the ridiculous first, and then superimpose the truth on top of it as best that it can be done without upsetting the ridiculous.

Keep on proving the power of non-belief!
I'm in the Bible Belt, myself, but I have the fortune (or misfortune, from the baiting fundies perspective) of being in the most liberal pocket within 500 miles, except perhaps D.C. I've got several atheists on my project at work. The most religious activity I get is the usual stupid questions, most of it instigated by my blatant reading of the Hitchens and Dawkins books with the most aggressive anti-Judeo-Christian titles, at work.

The only real contact I've had are the one whose arguments devolve to "Well, you've just got to have faith," within ... literally 30 seconds. Most of the rest is just funny, uninformed questions. I may be doing a tiny bit of educating, but I doubt it. If I am, I certainly never know about it.
Fundie baiting...

I wonder when Fundie season starts and ends. Just catch and release, because they are really hard to clean.

Keep proving the power of non-belief.
I dunno, some of the females of the species can make nice pets. You just have to domesticate them by cleaning out this little infection problem they have. You need an ear-brush with a long enough handle to reach the core of the infection.


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