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I started with my US employer over a year ago, and explained that because of my religious beliefs, I do not want to work with women. We are a small office with 20 male employees. My old boss quit about 2 months ago, and was replaced with a peer of his.

My new boss recently held an interview with a female candidate. Since I chose not to join the interview, I'm not allowed to be involved in the decision to hire this person.

What's the best way to make clear to my boss that my working with a woman would be in conflict with my beliefs? I have mentioned the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, but according to my boss, it does not apply in this case. I prefer not to quit, since I could risk losing my visa.

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You have a couple of options.

Firstly to quit immediately, and perhaps even relocate to somewhere that condones such an attitude towards women. Legally speaking generally in Western societies that's about the only recourse you have. Your undoubtably admirable and steadfast religious convictions are unfortunately totally at odds with Western mores and social systems.

Your other option if you want to remain in your position without offending your boss and possibly your colleagues is to come to some sort of compromise regarding your religious convictions as they pertain to the workplace. Because women struggled for a long time in the USA for equality and most would generally find your religious convictions unsuitable and incompatible with their own.

Realistically this is a personal issue of yours, pushing it with your boss may endanger your job and therefore your visa. But again, if you feel so strongly, it may just be best to leave the country because you will find this (unreasonable to you) equality and recognition of womens rights permeates throughout most Western societies both in legal and social terms.

Basically as a person who has worked in a few countries, I have found that it's up to the individual to conform to the society, it's unreasonable and in some places dangerous to expect the society to conform to the individual. Overtly showing what could be deemed bigoted behaviour for that society is detrimental in many ways and should be avoided.

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    Congrats, you win the bounty. One of your best answer IMHO. – Mister Positive Nov 3 '17 at 14:58
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    My first bounty, I'm going to celebrate :-) – Kilisi Nov 4 '17 at 1:13
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    'Your undoubtably admirable and steadfast religious convictions are unfortunately totally at odds with Western mores and social systems'. They are at odds at most eastern social systems as well.... – PagMax Dec 2 '17 at 11:01
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    I for one doubt this is an admirable conviction, regardless of the background. – bytepusher Dec 2 '17 at 18:54
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    @d-b I meant the West as in here on Earth... not the West of Mars or wherever you're talking about. Refusing to work with women is not part of the (Earthling) Western mores. It's not generally acceptable in the workplace here in any way. – Kilisi Jan 27 at 22:11
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First, your new boss was correct in not allowing you to provide feedback on the candidate: you chose not to interview her, so what reason/justification do you have to comment on her professional qualifications? None! Heck, you've pretty much admitted that you won't even consider her qualifications: you're just going to advise against hiring her on the basis of gender.

Second, consider reading up on a few important documents, like, say, the US Constitution, or the Civil Rights Act 1964. These trump any religious rights you might have not to hire someone based on gender.

Finally, unless your boss wrote it into your contract, there's nothing for you to legally do. Chances are, such a contract would be illegal, unless you were working for some kind of church.

There's another question that's remotely related to this. You might benefit from reading it.


As user2989297 noted in a comment:

religious freedom in the United States pertains to the people's right to maintain religious freedom from the government. It means Kim Davis cannot impose her religion on her constituents. It has nothing to do with the workplace. In few contexts, the line between religious freedom and civil rights can be blurred, and a Muslim could keep their job if they need to observe a holiday, but that is only in extremely rare circumstances where CIVIL rights can be applied. I have no idea where the "my religion empowers me to discriminate against you!" line of logic came from, but it needs to go away.

Update


The question's originator answered his own question, which, in addition to an insult, contained:

I had a talk with my new boss, and after discussing it with him, he agreed that to we did not hire a female right anyone for now would be too big of a hassle, and he hired a man of equal or better skill.

The answer has since been deleted, likely due to it being non-constructive. I agree with this action, as the originator's employer likely committed a crime by promoting such actions.

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    There is in fairness a statute that speaks to "reasonable accommodation" in terms of affirming religious standards. For example, a supermarket can't simply say Bob has to handle pork products or else unless there's no reasonable way they can make a job for him that allows him not to do this. That being said, I don't think that "I won't work with women" will get any kind of reasonable accommodation standard attached to it, so this post is largely correct. – NotVonKaiser Oct 1 '15 at 17:20
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    @NonVonKaiser I see your point, but I dont think your example holds water. Bob works at a supermarket. Whether he is a stocker, a cashier, or a butcher, part of his job is to handle pork. Bob cant get a job at the supermarket, and then invoke "reasonable accommodation" to force someone else to tag team into his lane every time a customer puts a pork chop on the belt. Same with the Muslim flight attendant who tried to not serve alcohol. Reasonable accommodation is allowing an absence on a holiday. Or allowing a corner to be used for prayer. It doesn't go much further than those 2 things. – user2989297 Oct 1 '15 at 18:51
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It is unfortunate that your original boss made a promise that the company cannot legally keep. Women are employed at almost all employers. If you want to remain in the US, you need to accept that your career prospects are severely reduced of you cannot work with women. If the office goes from having no women to having women, then you will need to move on. Since working women is the cultural expectation in this country, the onus of changing if a company is no longer all male is entirely on you.

Just as a Christian Scientist cannot work in a hospital and refuse to give treatment because he personally does not believe in medicine, you cannot dictate to companies that they cannot employ women. Women have the right to work in this country. I have worked with many Muslims through the years, so not everyone even within your own faith (I am guessing here based on your screen name and described beliefs) has the same beliefs that you hold. By holding beliefs that don't fit the mainstream, you need to be aware that you are the one who has to either change or accept that your own prospects will be more limited and require more frequent job changes.

There are people that I personally feel uncomfortable working with; I had a co-worker who was part of the Quiverful group of Christian fundamentalists. And certainly with his beliefs, he probably was not wild about working with a liberal feminist either since they believe women should work for the family inside the home. Yet in the office, we were perfectly able to treat each other with the professional respect that each has worked hard to earn. We will never be friends and we will never completely understand the other person's viewpoint, but no religious belief or lack thereof gives you the right to prevent other people from being able to earn a living. I am single, never married and my parents are dead. Am I supposed to starve because I am a female with no male relative to care for her? He has six children and a dependent wife. Are they supposed to starve because other people don't approve of their choices?

I bring this up because you need to learn to separate your personal feelings from your ability to work professionally with anyone or you will find it difficult to remain employed in this country. I can respect that you do not agree with my choices. I can respect that you are raised in a different faith tradition than I was.

However, if you choose not to do your job because of that, there will be consequences. Those consequences could include losing your job and your visa. If your religious belief is strong enough then I respect you for sticking to it and facing the consequences. If you truly feel that I and people like me are evil and choose not to associate with us, that is fine, but that will severely limit you to very few places to work in this country. If that is a problem, then perhaps, you are better suited to move back to your original country. Or you might seek out a group of people from your homeland who run a religious organization to work for (discrimination laws can be gotten around for religious organizations).

I wish you well, this is a tough place to be and you probably feel a bit betrayed because false promises were made to you. You should at least have a private conversation with your boss about what was told to you and why this is problem and find out if there are any accommodations such as working on separate projects that can be made.

I also suggest you talk with others from your country about this issue and how they handle it in the workplace. You will not be able to stay in an all male environment forever in the US.

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I started with my US employer over a year ago, and explained that due to my religious beliefs, I can not work with females.

Is there any way I can make clear to my boss that this is a potential conflict with my beliefs?

Yes.

Have a private meeting with your boss and explain your beliefs and how hiring a woman would conflict with those beliefs. That can at least make it clear to your new boss.

Explore if it is possible to have a woman hired yet still set things up such that you don't "have to work with her". Remember, this would be your problem to deal with, not hers.

Without knowing the details of your beliefs, you might find that you could work from home and never have to interact with her at all or you might find that you could work in a different office or in a different position or such. Probably not, but if you don't ask, you won't learn.

Be prepared to learn that your religious beliefs might be incompatible with the company's needs and US employment and anti-discrimination laws, assuming US laws apply in your case. You might need to make a difficult decision - like leaving. That is the general nature of the workplace in the US these days - gender biased hiring isn't allowed.

Most likely (particularly if you have been in the US for any amount of time) you understood that this day might come and that you would have to deal with this issue directly. It's unlikely that you are surprised by this. I doubt that you explained this to your original manager and were promised that they would never hire a woman.

It might be time to start on your Plan B.

Quitting is not an option, as I could risk losing my visa.

You might be able to work with your current employer to help you get a new employer who will sponsor you, so that you don't lose your visa. It might be a challenge to find a male-only employer. Again, you can ask if it comes down to this.

  • @Trickylastname - I have worked for a US employer but in the UK. So UK law counts. I am currently working for a Swiss company but in the UK. – Ed Heal Sep 29 '15 at 19:12
  • @edheal: the OP is encouraged to correct us if this assumption is wrong. – keshlam Sep 29 '15 at 20:25
  • I disagree with the basis of this answer - you are putting your boss in a very difficult position if you suggest to him that he carries out an illegal act (gender-based discrimination is illegal in most countries), and I don't see how this conversation could be construed as anything else. – Mike Brockington Mar 28 at 10:55
  • @Joe Imagine you are a female/lawyer, and you found out that an existing employee had told his boss that he couldn't work with a female. The only way that doesn't look bad is if the boss gives an adequate written reply, and since you advocated a private conversation, that is unlikely, and as I said putting the boss in a very awkward situation, at best. The only way to have such a conversation is if the OP had a specific proposal. – Mike Brockington Mar 28 at 11:06
  • No, the conversation itself might not be illegal, but it would put the boss in an impossible position - even if he did/said nothing wrong, it leaves the boss with all of the problems. As a general rule, one should never go to any boss with a problem, only with one (or more) possible solutions. – Mike Brockington Mar 28 at 11:34
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In the US, it is illegal to discriminate based on either religion or gender. A US employer can't refuse to hire someone based on "not wanting to work with" someone of that religion", nor can an employer refuse to hire a woman based on "not wanting to work with females".

If your boss were to tell this woman "sorry, we don't want to hire women right now", the company would be opening itself up to a huge discrimination lawsuit, and huge negative publicity campaign. It would be business suicide for your employer to cater to your preferences in this matter.

The upshot is, that you have to either A) find a way to keep to your religious strictures while still working for an employer that also employes people of other religions/genders, or B) find work in a country where the cultural and legal expectations are more similar to your own.

Others have already linked to the How does one politely decline a handshake due to religious reasons? question, which will probably be a good read.

To answer your original question of "how to prevent a female from being hired", the answer is "you can't, unless the company is willing to risk going out of business over refusing to hire women". Your convictions may be strong enough to take such a risk, but I highly doubt your employer would be willing to take those same risks.

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I suggest consulting a religious authority you respect in the country in which you are working.

They will be familiar with the constraints of your religion, the relevant employment situation, and how other people typically handle the issue.

  • Wouldn't a lawyer be a better pick? – Cloud Oct 7 '15 at 23:02
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    I don't think a lawyer would know the constraints of the OP's religion or how other followers of the same religion deal with the issue. It may be that the OP's rather extreme position is not really required or normally followed by coreligionists in the OP's current place of residence. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 8 '15 at 4:59
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If the Workplace Religious Freedom Act was law today, it would not protect protect the religious freedoms of an employee of a company, but the religious rights of the owner of a company.

For instance Chick-fil-a is a privately owned company. The Workplace Religious Freedom Act would protect the religious rights of the owners of said company. An example would be that Chick-fil-a would have the right not to be open on Sunday, even if there was a law passed in a state, that required all restaurants to be open on Sunday.

  • I used this example, because it is mild enough in the religious context, that everyone can agree a privately owned corporation owned by Christians has a right to be closed on Sunday. Besides everyone loves Chick-fil-a :-)

I have mentioned the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, but according to my boss, it does not apply in this case.

Your boss is indeed correct. If this worker who was a women were to be hired, their rights as a protected class, would overrule your religious rights currently. As your boss he is only able to legally entertain your religious customs that do not violate the rights of his other employees. You also are in a protected class, as a male, a company would be prevented from not hiring you if everyone in that company were women because you were male.

What you have asked your boss to do if it were made public, would give any potential employee that was a women, grounds for a discriminatory lawsuit against females.

Here is a key statement in the proposed law.

"all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer's business."

Being unable to hire the best potential employee, because she happened to be a women, would place undue hardship on them. Besides as I indicated, this law wouldn't prevent an employer or employee to violate the civil rights of another employee (just potentially the civil rights of the customer).

  • Excellently articulated answer, probably one of the best really. – Digitalsa1nt Nov 2 '17 at 14:49
  • Good companies will have HR rules that the company will not discriminate for any non-work related reasons, not just for reasons where discrimination is illegal. – gnasher729 Nov 4 '17 at 1:28
  • I don’t disagree. However, question is about a law, that wasnt even passed. – Donald Nov 4 '17 at 3:32
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Is there any way I can make clear to my boss that this is a potential conflict with my beliefs?

You can tell your boss anything you'd like to tell him.

But he probably won't be very receptive to your declaration, because sexual discrimination violates several federal statutes

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