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My work wants me to attend a workshop focused on LGBQI and intersex based topics.

I know you cannot discriminate against people for their race, religion or sexual orientation but I feel like this is reverse discrimination in making me have to attend this as I have no interest in it before and do not think it is my employers right to tell me how to think and it doesn't align with my personal or religious beliefs.

Am I obligated to attend this workshop?

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    On the grounds of "no interest in" almost certainly not. On religious grounds, maybe, but we'd need a location. The bigger issue, as always, is what damage does it to your relationship with your employer. How far do you want to push it? Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 7:33
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    I'll note that while this is polarizing question, it's also an important one and fit for here, so let's not down vote it, and instead provide good answers,
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 12:52
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    How is this reverse discrimination? Are the queer employees excused from this obligation?
    – Barmar
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 15:46
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    1. Is this during work hours or something they expect you to do on your own time? 2. There is no such thing as "reverse discrimination". Discrimination is discrimination, it doesn't matter who does the discriminating and who is discriminated against.
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 16:08
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    It's important to remember the distinction between "cannot" and "should not", because you absolutely can discriminate, but you should not. And even if you don't intend to do so, you might end up doing it accidentally, and that's why it can help to get some education on how to better not discriminate.
    – Erik
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 16:14

14 Answers 14

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An I obligated to attend this workshop?

If it is paid and on company time, and part of a larger initiative and not just you personally, then yes. You are.

I know you cannot discriminate against people for their race, religion or sexual orientation but I feel like this is reverse discrimination in making me have to attend this as I have no interest in it before and do not think it is my employers right to tell me how to think and it doesn't align with my personal or religious beliefs.

Your employer isn't telling you how to think. You can think whatever you want. Your employer is telling you how to act while on the job. Which is something your employer can absolutely do.

I'll give you an example. Since you cited "religious reasons", I will assume that you would view me as a "filthy heathen". Fine by me. You can think that or preach that in private, but if I walk into a store to buy something and you as the employee say it out loud, I will talk to the owner and your job will be done by someone else real fast. It is the employers obligation to make sure their employees act in their best interest.

In this case, the employers best interest is that you are aware of what LGBQI entails and that you know how to treat them as coworkers and customers as your employer wishes.

Treating coworkers and customers with respect is a requirement in every job.

While religious freedom means you cannot be forced to fulfill a job requirement, it also means the employer cannot be forced to continue employing you.

So for example if a butcher says they are Muslim and cannot work with pork, there is no authority that would collect them from home and force them to go to work in the pork plant. But the employer on the other hand is not forced to keep them in their job as pork butcher either. Their religious freedom just means they need to get another job.

Only if something is not actually a job requirement, you can successfully sue on grounds of religious freedom and keep your job. Lets say some weirdo says all their taxi drivers need to rub themselves with raw pork before a shift. That would be discriminatory, because it is not a requirement, there is no connection between pork and driving a car at all.

So you can deny this opportunity to learn something about the world, cling to your religious beliefs and find another job. Or, you can take this opportunity to learn something.

Nobody is asking you to change your beliefs. Only to act professionally on company time.

If you want to know more about this, why not ask whoever is in the hierarchy between you and your higher being of choice? Surely there is someone who can help you with this questions on religious grounds. If you are religious and it turns out your job is seen as a bad thing and against the religious morals, you may want to change it.

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An I obligated to attend this workshop?

I suppose at it's ultimate distillation no you're not - you aren't a slave or indentured servant and you can always vote with your feet if you find a particular job duty to be too onerous. However if you're asking whether they can require you to attend as a condition of your ongoing employment then there's every chance that they can. Of course if you do kick up a fuss about attending they might let you out anyway, but this is unlikely to be consequence-free, your employer and/or colleagues may well draw unfavourable conclusions about you.

I know you cannot discriminate against people for their race, religion or sexual orientation

Spot on! That doesn't mean that you won't learn something valuable in this workshop however, because I doubt that this workshop is just telling you this (after all a simple one-liner e-mail covers that) but it may well go some way to clarifying how this should be interpreted and demonstrating practical ways you can follow this.

There's a strong argument that precisely as someone whose interests, beliefs, and religion don't align with LGBTQ+ matters you are more likely to find yourself in the position of making an inadvertent gaffe and landing yourself in trouble. Since having to spend a great deal of time and effort explaining that you weren't meaning to discriminate against a group after the fact is tedious and unpleasant why not proactively engage in ways to protect yourself?

I feel like this is reverse discrimination in making me have to attend this as I have no interest in it

Being disinterested, or even bored isn't a protected characteristic anywhere as far as I know. I find myself doing things all the time at work that have no particular interest in, one of the reasons people get paid to go to work is as a tacit "we want you to do activity X when you'd much rather be doing activity Y, here's come money to compensate you for your time" deal. Me? I find safety briefings about as interesting as a year old copy of the phone book but I understand that the potential consequences of me doing something wrong because I didn't attend, or pay attention to, them could be exceedingly unpleasant for me, my colleagues, and my employer. So I damn well turn up and I damn well pay attention!

Unless you've been singled out simply for having (not acting on) personal or religious beliefs on the the subject I'm not seeing any way this is discrimination (reverse or otherwise).

...do not think it is my employers right to tell me how to think

It's not their right, they're entitled (within reason) to put forth a way they would like you to think, and you're entitled not to. It is however their right to tell you how to behave (within certain bounds of course), so you're free to think however you like about LGBTQ+ people and issues, but you aren't free to act in certain ways in your professional life, which you already know.

it doesn't align with my personal or religious beliefs.

As regards the religious aspect, I'm not aware of any major religions that prohibit their adherants from attending an LGBTQ+ related workshop, typically they prohibit their adherants from being LGBTQ+ instead, but my knowledge isn't complete by any means. If your religion does happen to have this, oddly specific, tenet you can probably excuse yourself with some supporting evidence as to that being the case, if you're unsure as to the position of your faith then I'm sure there's religious authorities you can consult.

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  • I'm not aware of any major religions that prohibit their adherants from attending an LGBTQ+ related workshop - If religious people feel like LBGQT+ is wrong, and your religion tells you its dishonorable,and to stay away from temptation and dishonor. To the point of saying that gays should be killed (Leviticus 20:13 ). It most definitly doesnt incite you to partake in the dishonorable practice, indirect or directly.
    – Or4ng3h4t
    Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 10:47
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Why wouldn't you attend? Your workplace is giving you the opportunity, and the time (paid) to do it. You might find that your understanding of this topic is not as comprehensive as you think and as a result perhaps change your perception of what "cannot discriminate" means. Provided the workshop is delivered effectively, having a better understanding does not mean a misalignment with your personal or religious beliefs. We should always remember that our personal and religious beliefs are for us to guide ourselves, and not to judge others. If we do choose to judge others, then we run the risk of discriminating against people with different views, creeds, religions or orientations. This workshop may elaborate further on this.

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    +1 for "Provided the workshop is delivered effectively, having a better understanding does not mean a misalignment with your personal or religious beliefs." It's unlikely that anyone in the workshop will try to tell you what to think. Instead, you will learn more about topics that are far more complex than most people imagine. As paulj says, it's about having a better understanding.
    – mhwombat
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 7:50
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    I'll never understand why someone would complain about attending whatever workshop that is during their normal work hours and they are being paid their normal salary for doing so. You are basically getting paid to do absolutely nothing and complaining about it.
    – sf02
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:57
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    @sf02 - Personally I've always enjoyed my job a lot more than I enjoy sitting through tangentially-related workshops in which I have no interest.
    – Guy G
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 15:39
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    I would upvote, except no, my personal beliefs are not just to guide myself. I absolutely use them to judge whether the behavior of other people is moral or ethical. Discrimination is not the same thing as having an opinion about someone else's behavior or beliefs. No law can force a person to accept, for example, that believing red-haired people are demons is just someone's "different view" and we shouldn't judge them for it. If you really believe you shouldn't judge other people for having a different view, then you probably shouldn't be asserting that we should all believe what you believe.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 20:31
  • Part of this education is to point out that being in business and / or working in a business is fundamentally different from being active in one's religion. In business, the concern is whether or not the customer has the money to spend and the willingness to spend that. There is conflict between business and religion as business often doesn't care what your morals are and purity in religion often is bad for business (kills or drives away customers).
    – David R
    Commented Nov 15, 2023 at 15:26
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First, there is no "reverse discrimination" unless you can demonstrate that your employer singles out people with some protected characteristics to go to that workshop and that going to this workshop is in some way mistreating you. Even then, your employer can make the argument that people following some religion have caused more trouble with LGBTQ etc. coworkers and customers than the average employee, so they should be sent to this workshop with higher priority than others.

What you could argue if this is not about you going to the workshop but someone going to the workshop and then sharing what they learned and improving things, that you are not the best person to send there. If you are not interested in the subject, maybe they should send someone who is. This might get you off the workshop. On the other hand, what is remembered is that the company tried to send you to a workshop to come back and share what you learned, and you refused to do so. So you are not the right person for this kind of thing. And when there is a workshop about the advantages of using 5G phones in the company, they won't ask you to go.

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I am a heterosexual male.

I know you cannot discriminate against people for their race, religion or sexual orientation but I feel like this is reverse discrimination in making me have to attend this as I have no interest in it before and do not think it is my employers right to tell me how to think and it doesn't align with my personal or religious beliefs.

Your employer is trying to raise awareness of the diversity of customers / colleagues you can reasonably be expected to encounter. Your employer is not saying "you must think this way or have X negative job consequence be taken against you"

It is in their best interest that employees feel safe / welcomed in coming to work. Animus against LGBTQ folks can be due to ignorance , something that I have personally witnessed in my role as a manager. I have personally stood up for colleagues experiencing ostracization and harassment at work, and was praised for my poise.

Education about this topic to bring about awareness is not indoctrination in that you don't have to personally endorse the idea.

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If your employer is paying for your time during the workshop, and your work there merely involves passively hearing a presentation, then there are probably no grounds for objection.

Management have used such presentations to spout downright nonsense for all time, so the fact that the presentation may urge or at least expose a particular political position is not grounds for refusal under typical circumstances. Obviously, I'm assuming we're talking about a session lasting an hour or two with refreshments, not a Clockwork Orange-style brainwashing session.

There may also be various objections which, even if reasonably bonafide from a religious point of view, are simply not lawful. For example, attempting to enforce one-religion workplaces, or attempting to hold those of other religions (or the irreligious) to a particular standard of religious behaviour, is generally not lawful behaviour.

In general in the modern world, rules which bind everyone at once are the ultimate domain of (secular) lawmakers, not religious clergy, and certainly not individual religious adherents.

Allowance is usually made for people to participate in their own religious practices - in the sense of rituals, collective worship with co-religionists, and so on - but insofar as one of those practices may be the imposition of a religious standard of behaviour on others, that is generally an illegitimate mentality as far as the law is concerned.

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Is it a waste of time, maybe, but it's your employers time to waste.

We as employees do sell our labour and our time to the highest bidder. They are entitled to spend the time they bought of you how they please (Within limits off course).

I don't see how educating the workforce on how to deal with certain minorities is a waste of time though. There is a host issues regarding lgqbt community and educating you on what is exactly expected from you when you come into contact with people like this sounds the antithesis of a waste of time, and even if it was there may be some issues that you are not aware of that made the higher ups feel it is needed.

It seems though that you are going into it with the mindset that it is a waste of time and it looks like the lord god himself could not convince you of anything different.

This ironically enough may very well be the type of prejudicial mindsets that the talk you don't want to go, may want to warn you against

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Is the the workshop optional?

Assuming it is not, you are welcome to ask your direct boss (assuming you have a good relationship) that you’d rather not attend.

If they insist, I recommend sitting through then leaving afterwards.

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| I feel like this is reverse discrimination in making me have to attend this.

It is only discrimination if they are selectively sending some of their employees to the workshop.

| I have no interest in it before.

Employers often train people in stuff they don't care about beforehand.

| I do not think it is my employers right to tell me how to think.

Considering there's not a test to detect what you're thinking, beyond a person opening their mouth and not letting others live in ignorance, I believe it is more about employers telling you how to act.

Employers often tell others how to act. Good examples of this start with "Act as if the customer is always right", "When a thief is leaving the store, don't apprehend them", etc.

| It doesn't align with my personal or religious beliefs.

Now who is trying to make it into a rights violation? You can't argue your rights are going to be violated by learning how to not violate others' rights unless you also argue your religion requires violating another's rights.

I probably share a background quite like yours, I'm not in the LGBT(whatever) group; but, let me be clear, no religion protects you from having to interact with people. You can't state my religion prohibits sexual assault so I don't have to attend the company mandated anti-sexual harassment training. This training is no different.

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Yes, you have to attend

If attendance was optional, they would have told you that it was optional. And you wouldn't be asking this question.

Minor rant

Is this type of seminar pointless, and a waste of money by your current employer? Yes... Will it cause anyone's behavior to change? No... Are seminars liked this peddled by scam artists who will accuse the company that you work for a discrimination, bigotry, etc... if they didn't give them the money to put on this dog and pony show to show the world how 'unbiased', 'openminded', 'nondiscriminatory', and 'unbigoted' they are? Yes. I mean there is a small chance that your current employer actually buys into this... In that case, you probably want to find another job as you don't have a future there, seeing as you are straight heterosexual male.

Addendum

Unless you have another job lined up, Or are irreplaceable. Just attend, and make sure you nod in all of the right places. There is no useful information to find at one of these dog/pony shows. Besides 'be a decent human being' and if you aren't that... A workshop isn't likely to cause any changes there.

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  • It is not pointless, as it serves to firmly state how the company wants employees to behave (or not behave). Having that clearly stated might indeed make people change their behavior, especially if negative consequences are attached to misbehaving.
    – Gertsen
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 13:13
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    The most I've seen is that it changes overt behavior into covert behavior that is nastier... But not technically a violation of company policy. So yes, pointless. If you hire decent human beings, this is never a problem. If you haven't then there is no policy/traiing that you can point in place that will work.
    – Questor
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 16:20
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    @Questor You can find out who are the decent human beings by the mountain of issue they make out of a molehill - and that includes making a big deal out of a seminar about "how to treat others nice".
    – T. Sar
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 12:39
  • @T.Sar yes. that is definitely 1000% what such seminars have been about in my experience. And as I said in this answer, Attending the waste of time/money seminar is mandatory.
    – Questor
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 19:25
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They can't make you do anything, you can always vote with your feet, but why not just solve it quietly without waves and rationalisations?

I have strong religious beliefs although I don't care about the 'queer' stuff as it's all irrelevant in my locale. I certainly would not be interested in attending a workshop about it unless there was some nice food involved. But I don't get into theological discussions with anyone, I would just quietly not attend. This is a common resolution in some cultures & locales. Something comes up at the last minute and they just quietly don't do it.

Then deal with anything about it afterwards when it's already a fait accompli, apologise and look faintly surprised if people start jumping up and down making a spectacle of themselves over it.

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I'm going to add a second, more substantive Answer:

So, googling indicates that QueerTown is an Australian entity - so Australian law is the benchmark here.

The Fair Work Act states that it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against an employee based on religion. Religious discrimination refers to any adverse action taken against an employee because of his/her religion, and can include not hiring someone, treating an employee less favorably than other employees, or terminating an employment contract.

(from: Here)

Now - from my understanding, there is not Blanket protections things such as:

  • Observance of the Sabbath
  • Wearing certain clothing that interferes with Safety etc.

Is not protected.

The litmus test is whether or not the religious observance would impact your ability to do your job.

In most scenarios, I think you would have a very good case to refuse on religious grounds. Where you might have trouble would be if the position was one where it would be reasonable that you would regularly and specifically interact with LGBTQ+ people as part of your job - so for example, if you worked as a counsellor.

I think it would be more interesting to argue that the institution is advancing a political agenda and that requiring you to attend would be discriminatory on that grounds. There have been some cases recently in UK law that would be interesting (and yes, the Australian legal system does regularly look at cases in the UK and NZ for reference where there are similar questions being asked.

In short - Your employer would have a hard time justifying that such a workshop is required for you to do your job, as such you can refuse it. If you face backlash, a well worded legal letter from a lawyer that you believe you are facing discrimination at work due to your religious beliefs should either cut it out or provide grounds for lawsuit further down the line.

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I know you cannot discriminate against people for their race, religion or sexual orientation

As the company are holding a workshop for 1 of the above groups, ask them if they plan to hold workshops for race discrimination and religious discrimination too? If so it should make it somewhat easier for you to attend if you know that the company and it's employees are trying to be more inclusive as a whole and knowing that other employees may becoming more understanding/aware of your religious beliefes.

If they aren't holding such other workshops and you still don't feel comfortable attending, you could raise this and state you feel this to be a form of discrimination.

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    I did not vote on your answer, but I would ask the same question I asked the others... can you cite any law or regulation why it would be discrimination and why the person would be protected from repercussions? I mean anybody can "feel" all they want, but feelings don't protect you from being fired, only laws do.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 10:35
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    It's also a bit of a "be careful what you wish for" situation. I don't get the impression the OP would be happy, if HR came back and had them enrolled in extra 3 workshops on sexism, racism and religous freedoms (especially those of other religions than their own) on top of this one.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 10:42
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    I downvoted because I don't think this is particularly good approach. While I can see potential benefits to the OP pushing for workshops around religious sensitivity if they believe that's a problem at their workplace I don't think tying that to this workshop is a productive idea, and will likely come across as a petty request for quid-pro-quo rather than something to consider on it's own merits. And I don't think the argument lack of a religious workshop would be discrimination holds water.
    – motosubatsu
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 11:04
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    The OP is not sent to the workshop based on any of that, or are they? My understanding is the workshop is for all employees.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:23
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    "ask them if they plan to hold workshops for race discrimination and religious discrimination too?" They shouldn't do X because they haven't done Y? That's just whataboutery; the perfect is the enemy of the good. Commented Nov 14, 2023 at 13:31
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"No, I will not need attending"

That is all, if they push, state that requiring you to do so would violate religious freedom.

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    Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on The Workplace Meta, or in The Workplace Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Nov 16, 2023 at 4:30
  • A post with -23 score... amazing.
    – Neil Meyer
    Commented Nov 23, 2023 at 15:31

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