In Focus: How Sausage Rolls and Birthday Parties Can Offend People of Certain Faiths

By Dana Wilkie October 6, 2015
Microwaving sausage rolls at work may be a no-no.

It may seem an innocent enough act to warm up your sausage roll in the microwave during lunch hour. But doing so could seriously upset colleagues of certain faiths, new guidelines on the etiquette of using communal kitchens at work suggest. (Daily Mail, U.K.)

Even celebrating birthdays at work can get you in hot water.

What could possibly go wrong with recognizing someone’s birthday at work? Turns out, enough to make any self-respecting HR manager pay attention. The seemingly innocuous workplace birthday celebration has spawned lawsuits about religious and age discrimination, generated numerous questions on attorney-advice websites, and inspired lengthy discussions on social media. (SHRM Online)

Despite court guidance, it can be hard to know when dress codes violate religious beliefs.

Clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch may have ended its “appearance and sense of style” hiring rule in April 2015—which was the subject of a lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court—but questions remain as to how employers can know if workers’ apparel, head dressings, jewelry or body markings are tied to religious beliefs? (SHRM Online)

Some forms of religious discrimination, however, are apparent.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued United Parcel Service Inc., for discriminatory practices dating back to 2004 against job applicants and workers whose religious practices conflicted with the company’s uniform and appearance policies. (SHRM Online)

So when does religious freedom trump the law?

A Supreme Court case pitting a corporation’s religious views against contraception coverage for employees is just one example of an emerging theme in American jurisprudence, a senior CNN analyst told those attending SHRM’s 2014 Employment Law & Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. “The question of the religious views of the owners of a company and how that can affect customers and employees is a growing area of law,” said CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin. “That whole category of cases is something that we’re going to see a lot more of.” (SHRM Online)

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.


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