Discrimination in the Workplace — thoughtful article at WildHunt
WildHunt has an interesting article about discrimination in the workplace here. It’s worth a read. I’ve always chosen to be out as a polytheist. I don’t ever want to be in the position where I can be blackmailed about it, nor do I see it as something to hide. There’s also a didactic function inherent in being out, even if only very quietly so. Still, I’ve been discriminated against on the basis of my religion at work many times: I’ve had bibles left piled up all over my office, I’ve had my office vandalized. Both times I knew it was a fundy christian working at the same department. They were not disciplined by management at all and I was told to forget about it. I’ve been isolated and alienated from social functions at work. I’ve had verbal harassment. I’m pretty sure it cost me a job. I know it impacted my salary and let’s just say I never made ‘friends’ at work.
When I worked in ballet, it was a non-issue. It only became a problem when I moved into retail (Barnes and Noble, where the two acts of office vandalism and what I would now term a massively hostile work environment occurred, was the worst including having a manager call me aside and wanting, quite aggressively, to know how many Pagans were in the department. I refused to answer as there were four or five of us) and then corporate. Ironically now in academia I’ve had no problems at all (so far). The worst I can say is certain journals refuse to publish my religious studies articles on the grounds I couldn’t possibly be unbiased being polytheist –regardless of how well researched these articles are, or sometimes on the grounds that I’m more a theologian than an anthropologist. I’ve never had a problem in my fairly conservative department and I don’t hide my identity as a polytheist at all. hell, all anyone would have to do is a simple Google search. It may become an issue when I attain my PhD and have to find a job, especially if I intend to teach high school, which is a relevant option for Classicists. That remains to be seen.
For those outside the US reading this, and possibly wondering why religion would even come up in the workplace, allow me to clarify. American workplaces are infested with the same obsession with religion, specifically Christianity, that you see in the media and our political arena. While I find talking about one’s personal life at all at work obnoxious, many Americans find nothing wrong with assuming one to be Christian and/or asking about it in a workplace setting. We have laws against this when it’s coming from management, but not so much when it’s another co-worker. It’s like being married or having children: office mates will pry and if you don’t openly disclose sooner or later they’ll try actively to sniff it out. This is one of the things i loathed about corporate: what i term the office bell jar effect.
When I was working in Human Resources for a major American bank, we had a case where two brokers were fighting. One was a practitioner of Vodou and the other kept accusing this person of putting hexes on her, and complained to management about it, every time something went wrong in her life. HR wanted to laugh it off until I pointed out the immensely hostile workplace this was creating for the Voudoussaint, and the potential for a pending lawsuit. It got resolved pretty quickly but the fact that it even escalated to the point of coming to HR is significant. There’s little respect in this country given to non-Abrahamic religions. Last year, though the ruling was quickly overturned, a judge even ordered a Wiccan mother to put her child in Christian education. We have a very long way to go before we break the back of the Christian right in this country, and an even longer way to go before our religion becomes a non-inssue in the world of social commerce.