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Five Steps to Take in the Face of Religious Discrimination

Marie Jarry's plight is not unique. Many teachers, no matter how excellent they are, suffer when their school boards turn Taliban. Here are 5 ways to fight back.

Advance report on Carolyn Wiethoff's research into Pagan perceptions of religious discrimination in the workplace

Research on Pagan Perceptions of Workplace Discrimination
Special to Pagan Institute Report
By Christa Landon
March 8, 2007

As regular readers of Pagan Institute Report may recall, Carolyn Wiethoff, Ph.D., teaches and conducts research at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University-Bloomington.  Her research focuses on the workplace experiences of people whose religion is considered "non-mainstream" or "minority" in today's society. 

While Wiethoff herself is not a Pagan, she has been interested in studying Pagans at work for two reasons:  First, management researchers knew next to nothing about religious discrimination at work, and nothing at all about Pagans' experiences specifically. Second, Pagans are the ideal subject group for research on workplace practices that both make people comfortable disclosing their religious beliefs at work and/or make people feel that they will experience negative repercussions if they make that disclosure. This is because Pagans can be more invisible than other minorities and thus generally can choose whether or not to make that disclosure.

About two years ago, she requested that Pagan Institute Report  publish her request for Pagans to participate in her study of Pagan perceptions of workplace discrimination.  Her questions included,

  1. What is it like to be Pagan at work?
  2. Do your co-workers know?
  3. Have you experienced discrimination? Or,
  4. Are you happily "out of the broomcloset" at work?

Her goals have been to

  1. document and call attention to workplace discrimination faced by Pagans, Wiccans, and members of similar religious groups; 
  2. understand the nature of the workplace experiences felt by these individuals;
  3. identify workplace practices that both lead to religion-based discrimination and reduce it;
  4. inform managers about Pagans and their workplace experiences; and
  5. make prescriptive suggestions about workplace practices that contribute to making ALL workers feel accepted and comfortable at work.

I interviewed Wiethoff on March 7, 2007 for an update. At present results have been tabulated and the report is being written, but here is a preliminary report special to Pagan Institute Report.

494 Pagans gave complete (and therefore usable) survey data. 

Wiethoff found that there are many similarities between coming out of the closet and coming out of the broom closet.  Pagans were much more comfortable in the workplace and more likely to come out of broomcloset...

  1. if the Pagan believed that the company's protection of religion policy applied to them;
  2. if there is open religious diversity (anything other than main-stream Christianity) in the workplace; or
  3. if there's a general sense that the organization welcomes and celebrates diversity, through special events, support groups, active diversity education.  As global organizations were perceived as committed to welcoming everyone, Pagans felt safer and were more likely to come out in the workplace.

While Wiethoff didn't mention the interest which Marketing and some Human Resources departments have in attracting "cultural creatives," Pagans generally fit into that category and furthermore, "cultural creatives" generally prefer being in communities with high levels of diversity.

Her follow up research will be studying attitudes towards
Pagans by employers.

If you would like to share your experience, please write to the Editor (note spambot-baffle.)

Carolyn Wiethoff, Ph.D.
Clinical Assistant Professor of Management
Indiana University-Bloomington
1309 E. 10th Street
Bloomington IN 47405

cwiethof @ indiana.edu
(note spambot-baffle.)

Employment Discrimination Alert:

Federally-Funded Employment Discrimination under the "Faith-based" programs repealed critical civil rights protections for employees under these Federal contracts. Click Here.

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Updated: July 11, 2008
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Mailing Addresses

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