Blog Post

Can An Employer Force You to Practice New Age?

TM asks: "What do you do when your employer is into New Age stuff and may want you to use it with the people you work with?"

Your e-mail does not define the "New Age stuff" this employer is forcing you to use, but if it is against your religious beliefs, your employer may be violating rights guaranteed to you under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,Title VII "prohibits employers, except religious organizations from discriminating against individuals because of their religion in hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment. Title VII also requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of an employee or prospective employee, unless to do so would create an undue hardship upon the employer."

This means that:

  1. Employers may not treat employees more or less favorably because of their religion.
  2. Employees cannot be required to participate “or to refrain from participating “in a religious activity as a condition of employment.
  3. Employers must reasonably accommodate employees' sincerely held religious practices unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
  4. Employers must take steps to prevent religious harassment of their employees.
  5. Employers may not retaliate against employees for asserting rights under Title VII
A good example of how this law protects employees can be found in a case settled in 2018 in which 10 employees of the Long Island-based United Health Programs of America were awarded $5.1 million in compensatory and punitive damages when a jury ruled that the company forced employees to practice rituals associated with a cult-like organization that relies on a cartoon character known as “Onionhead” to teach “emotional awareness” to followers.

Some of these practices included mandatory attendance at spiritual readings and prayer sessions, participation in cleansing rituals, and to make donations to the organization out of their paychecks.

Another example can be found in what happened to the once thriving Alex and Ani bracelet company whose management and day-to-day operations were riddled with New Age practices. For example, the best dates for store openings had to be discerned with numerology, desks and walls were studded with crystals, and workspaces were regularly "smudged." Employees were expected to participate in these practices and many of those who refused alleged that they were discriminated against. As a result, a succession of lawsuits from former employees alleging a hostile work environment and religious and gender discrimination nearly destroyed the company, reducing it to barely a shadow of what it once was. 

If you feel that any of your rights are being violated, this is a serious matter and I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney who can advise you on the best course of action to take to protect both your employment and your rights!

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