Spirtuality Training?

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Ron Smith - Also by this author

Over the past few years, I've become aware that several businesses including automotive dealerships have sought to address the notion of incorporating religious or spiritual principals in their workplace and/or workplace training. A recent case arose at a Houston dealership when a potential car saleswoman sued the dealership for refusing to accommodate her religious beliefs when it required her to participate in a training program that involved reading, memorizing and reciting passages from a motivational book that supposedly conflicted with her religious beliefs. The instruction involved memorization of passages from "The Greatest Salesman In The World" and recitation of those passages three times a day. The book by Og Mandino is set in New Testament times, and tells the story of Hafid, who, by incorporating the principles and teachings of 10 scrolls, becomes wealthy and successful, and passes on the scrolls to Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ. Paul then becomes the greatest salesman in the world. The woman considered this to be an affront to her religious beliefs, refused to take the class, and therefore was not hired.

It would seem that mandatory Bible reading (or any other religious reading) without accommodating divergent religious beliefs would be a violation of Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights statute if it resulted in any negative employment action. Voluntary religious readings may have a different result unless the employee is rendered an "outcast" by failure to participate. I can visualize such a charge. An even finer line however would be courses concerning "total well being" or the alignment of minds, bodies and spirits with the mission of the organization. Trying to draw a line between spiritual and religious certainly can be done, but needs to be embarked upon very carefully.

One expert urges employers that do engage in "New Age Training" to provide an alternative for employees who object to the spiritual or religious overtones of such training. It may, however, be a problem to find a non-spiritual alternative. Some New Age Training is offensive to both conservative religious individuals or non-religious people who do not want a religious element introduced into the workplace.

You should note any New Age Training program does not become legally troubling until it is objected to by an employee. There is a defense on the employer’s part by saying that providing alternative means of training would be an undue burden, but I would think there might be some difficulty in defending that. Another expert says that any biblical training should be based upon Old Testament principals because those teachings are cultural and more historic.

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