workplace and religion

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Ethical problems are circumstances where a person or an organization judges to be either right or wrong. Religion in the workplace is a moral dilemma that is on the rise in many countries, especially in the United States. Many people have complained of religious discrimination, particularly among Muslims in the workplace. The growth in the globalization of society and the economy has led to diversity in the workplace, where workers from different parts of the world share their diverse religious views and culture in the organization. According to classical ethical philosophies such as utilitarianism, the behavior is right and moral whether it produces satisfaction for a larger number of citizens. In this essay, the primary focus will be evaluating the ethical issues arising from religion in the workplace based on classical ethical theories and perspectives such as utilitarianism, deontology, and relativism.

Ethical Conflicts

Religious beliefs and behaviors result in moral disputes between individuals who practice and the organization values. According to Alidadi (2010), religious activities such as holy days, attire, food and values can create an ethical dilemma for the management. For example, in the Muslim religion, the religious attire is composed of a large clock and a head attire which in most companies it is considered unofficial and unacceptable. Besides, in the workplace, the primary goal is to work together to achieve a common goal and not promote religion. Moreover, there is a law that protects employees from religious discrimination such as Title VII which states managers should treat all workers equally. However, this law may not work in a modern workplace that involves diversity. Rao (2012), argues that treating employees equally means treating others differently.

Classical Ethical Theories


The deontologist ethical theory argues that people have an obligation to treat others with respect and moral dignity. Every person is equal and should extend the moral integrity in the workplace and other official places. The deontologist argues that religion in the workplace is an ethical issue that requires attention to avoid religious discrimination and conflicts. When employees decide to read the bible or play spiritual music in the firm, management and other employees should respect the action. For example, in the United States, more than 150 Muslims employees with Somalia descent protested after they were denied the rights of praying in a standard room together (Ghumman et al., 2013). The management of the firm requested the Muslims workers to pray in small groups to avoid disruption of company’s activities. Besides, in the modern workplace setup, the deontologist theory about religion in the workplace is impossible. Today, globalization and immigration have resulted in increased number of employees in a company with various religious beliefs and behaviors.


Another classical ethical theory that evaluates religion in the workplace is utilitarianism theory. According to this theory, the most moral act is the one that brings joy and satisfaction to a large number of people. Therefore, religion in the workplace should be considered if it brings happiness to a large number of employees. The Muslims pray on Sabbath and at certain times of the day, the company should set up a common place of worship and prayers where the employees join and utilize their rights of worship (Vickers, 2010). Utilitarianism supports an action that benefits many people to be ethical and right. However, utilitarianism has received widespread criticism from modern business enterprises which argues that the ethics theory is cold, impractical and violates other people’s rights in the workplace. This approach fails to recognize the reality of complexities in the workplace and real life. Today, many companies have adopted international policies such as globalization that federal employees from different religious background.

Ethical perspectives


Relativism is an ethical perspective that argues that there is no absolute truth about a moral issue. In this theory, people choose to believe what is moral and immoral on their own and different people can have differences of opinion about an ethical issue. In the workplace, religion can be evaluated on relativism concept where management allows different people to have various religious beliefs and activities. The Muslim religion is one of the most practiced religion in the world. In the Middle Eastern countries, Muslim employees are allowed time to pray, attend hold days, wear casual attire and follow their beliefs in the firm (Grobler and Nicolaides, 2016). In most cases, those that are not Muslims consider this wrong and unfair since they work long hours to compensate the Muslim employees and disrupts the normal operations of the company. Proponents of religious relativism argue that there is nothing right or wrong to extend religion in the place of work.


In conclusion, religion in the workplace is an ethical issue on the rise in many parts of the world. In the United States, religion in the workplace causes ethical conflicts resulting in different beliefs and practices of individuals such as attire, holy days, faith, and food. Non deontologists argue that religion in the workplace is impractical in the modern society due to a high number of immigrants with different religious background and globalization of the economy. Besides, the ethical perspective of relativism argues that there is no absolute truth of a moral right or wrong about religion in the workplace. The changing work environment, technology, and religious diversity make it impossible for religion to prosper in the workplace.


Alidadi, K. (2010). Religion and the Workplace. RELIGARE-religious diversity and secular models in Europe innovative approaches to law and policy.

Benefiel, M., Fry, L. W., & Geigle, D. (2014). Spirituality and religion in the workplace: History, theory, and research. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 6(3), 175.

Grobler, A., & Nicolaides, A. (2016). A critique of the psychological contract and spirituality in the South African workplace viewed in the light of Utilitarianism and Deontology.

Rao, A. (2012). Managing diversity: Impact of religion in the Indian workplace. Journal of World Business, 47(2), 232-239.

Vickers, L. (2010). Religious discrimination in the workplace: an emerging hierarchy?. Ecclesiastical Law Journal, 12(03), 280-303.

Ghumman, S., Ryan, A. M., Barclay, L. A., & Markel, K. S. (2013). Religious discrimination in the workplace: A review and examination of current and future trends. Journal of Business and Psychology, 28(4), 439-454.

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