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A business/human relations thought.

Just to share with you an example of the random thoughts that pop into my head throughout the day.

There are a group of women who work somewhere in my office building who I see several times a week leaving the office at around 3 PM. They are holding in their hands bags of Jehovah's Witness materials - copies of Awake and Watchtower, along with any other little publications that might be out then. As I never see them with such materials in their hands in the morning or the evening, I have to assume that several times a week they take time from their work day to go hand out Jehovah's Witness materials and proselytize their good word. After all, it is a Jehovah's Witness' duty to spread their gospel.

Now, for those with any human resource background, or just in the mood to discuss - does a company have to allow for this under workforce laws protecting one's ability to practice their religion? I know that orthodox Jews must be allowed to leave before sundown on Friday's so they can observe the Sabbath. So clearly there is precedent to allow the above to occur.

On the other hand, the orthodox Jew mentioned above is probably going to religious services, and is also required by Jewish law not to work after sundown during the Sabbath. The Jehovah's Witnesses above are not leaving work to go pray, but instead to preach their religion and hopefully gain the interest of possible converts. So this isn't quite the same... or is it? After all, they are required to do such activities by their religion.

So as a human resource director, or a president/owner of a company, how would you react to a request to leave work for several hours one day, or even several days, a week to proselytize?

Comments

( 37 comments — Leave a comment )
becalyn
Mar. 11th, 2008 07:59 pm (UTC)
An orthodox Jew can't change when the sun sets. Jehovah Witnesses can find a different time to spread their word. Just my opinion.

Edited at 2008-03-11 08:00 pm (UTC)
boymeat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC)
I thought of that as well. I can also come up with answers to that. Say, in the evening they are caregivers to their family, and thus cannot go after work. For example, I had a single mother co-worker to had to leave every day at 4:50 PM in order to pick up her child from work. After work she simply would not be able to go off and do her religious thing, as she is now single-handedly raising her child.

Then what is the answer?
eric_mathgeek
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:07 pm (UTC)
Seems to me, if that were the case, then they would need to work it out with their church to get babysitting.
eric_mathgeek
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:09 pm (UTC)
Another thought -- is there dogma on the least number of hours they should spend proseletyzing?
boymeat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:12 pm (UTC)
Good question! I might have to research that one.
feyrieprincess
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:46 pm (UTC)
Christians, ESPECIALLY evangelical ones like Jehovah's Witnesses, believe that it is their personal responsibility and life mission to "save" as many souls as possibly. While I do not know of a specific stated "time commitment" for ALL Jehovah's Witnesseses, increasing the proselytizing is seen as a spiritual practice and functions much as fasting does to other religions- So while it is not a "dogma" or prescription, they may have made a personal or group commitment. Practicioners of evangelical belief systems, also carry a tremendous amount of guilt and personal responsibility for "saving the souls" of others. They think "If I am not out there, People are going to Hell. And that is my fault".. So not proselytizing or "cutting back" on the proselytizing may actually affect their mental health/productivity.

Again, this is a question with so many interesting sides and angles....
becalyn
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:22 pm (UTC)
They aren't restricted to weekday afternoon hours. In my mind that is the difference. The Jehovah Witnesses aren't restricted to a specific time to fulfill their religious requirements. They can do it any time. My guess is the tenets of their faith don't state they're to do it only during times that's convenient to them. Orthodox Jews don't have any flexibility in fulfilling their particular religious tenet.
kathrinefarmer
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
Not a serious answer but I say hang 'em. I also in return should be able to voice my religion of free sex for all but that doesn't seem to go over as well.
(Deleted comment)
kathrinefarmer
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
I don't know if the world would be ready for someone like me.
kathrinefarmer
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)
p.s. my motto would be

'quit bitchin' do somethin' about it'
emeraldliz
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
Well I've always been the type who could care less about "time"- I don't care if you're smoking, cybering, fucking in the supply closet or sleeping. As long as the work gets done on time, people aren't waiting or covering for you and it's good quality- what specific time you spend in the office is meaningless to me.

However, there really isn't a difference to me in this case between the Jew and the Jehovah's witness- they are both showing devotion to their faith and their creator as dictated by their religion. They are worshipping in their way and following the laws required.
eric_mathgeek
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:08 pm (UTC)
A slightly different "bother" for me -- in my company, religious people are allowed to take religious holidays off -- paid, and not as vacation. But as a non-religious person, I can't do that...
boymeat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
Interesting. My company gets around that by giving everyone personal days. That way if a religious holiday comes up that is not an official office close, you can do that. Non-religious people can use that time when they want.
eric_mathgeek
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:54 pm (UTC)
We get two personal days, taken from sick time. But religious holidays are billed as if you were working, so religious people still get those two personal days as well.
melebeth
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:14 pm (UTC)
This is also an argument frequently brought up by those who are childless by choice - why are parents allowed to take time off for parent-y things, but non-parents not allowed to take time off for non-parent-y things?

This potentially incomprehensible post brought to you by lack of sleep.
eric_mathgeek
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
If they're taking paid time and not vacation time, that would bug me. Especially if, as others said, they're not getting their work done. But I guess as long as the work's being done, I wouldn't make a stink about any of this.
jd_trouble
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)
Time to start worshipping the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I hear they allow you to choose your own dates for the holidays...Marinara Day, Good Meatballs, and my favorite...The Week of Lasagna!
warmsapphiretes
Mar. 12th, 2008 03:16 am (UTC)
How do I convert to this? And is there a holiday dedicated to alla vodka or alfredo?

Just wonderin'...
dmedicus
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:16 pm (UTC)
Honestly as long as they are doing their job and not lacking, then its fine with me. But if they are always gone and their work is not getting done, then yes its a problem.

Also as long as they let everyone practice their faith, its OK.
feyrieprincess
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
I wish I had a Human Resources background so I could discuss this intelligently- as I find the whole question very intriguing.

My knowledge of such things is severely limited beyond a basic knowledge of workforce law as it applies to North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. NC, SC, and Georgia are "Right to Work" states. In other words,...

In NC, SC, and GA:
a) Employers have a right to "discontinue employment" of employees immediately for any reason without advance notice.
b) Employees also have a right to "discontinue their employment" for any reason without advance notice, and cannot be sued for breach of contract when they quit. Unless a special clause has specifically been written in (this usually only occurs for contract work)
c) Work places have the right to forbid Union activity or membership of its employees. (So we don't have the "Union Mentality" of "Protect the Workers" - as a state, we have the mentality of "Work is a privledge not a right"...don't ask me WHY, then the laws are called "right to work" laws..cause they are SO not)

So in SC, at least, the Jehova's witnesses could be fired for this if the company felt that it compromised their productivity. However, there is ALSO a law that companies may not "practice discrimination based on race, sex, religion, physical disability, or any other 'protected group'. But this is a federal law, and the state "right to work" law over rides it. Now, needless to say, cases like this have gone to court and won in SC/NC/and Georgia, but to my knowledge, the state "right to work" laws are sited, and court decisions tend to favor the employer.

New York, on the other-hand, is a whole different ball game. In New York, Unions have power and are a pretty big deal- so there's this general "Union Mentality" of "Protect the Workers". This mindset seems to extend to Religious groups. Workers in New York have a lot more protection than they do down here. In New York, it is considered a virtue for companies to be "Union Friendly", and laws aside, I would think NY companies wouldn't want the "bad press" of "discriminating" against the "rights" of these Jehovas Whitnesses.

Down here, Bible-Belt though it is, you bet your bottom dollar, those 3-o'clock evangelicals would be out on their ear, with the company citing "right to work laws" to cover its ass.

Beyond the legal angle, I think there's also an ethical component to this question-- this is the part which really intrigues me. It is the eternal question of "where do we draw the line". Ethically, and all irritation at Jehovah's Witnesses aside, I think they have just as much right to be who they are and practice their beliefs as anyone else. I think EVERYONE does. BUT where is the line between "freedom of religion" and "taking advantage" ? THAT is a question I CANNOT answer...

I can't to read what others have to say about it. There are so many sides to this question....
boymeat
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:29 pm (UTC)
I asked my HR director what she thought, and she too agreed that it was a fascinating question. She didn't know the answer, and said that if the situation came up, she would have to talk to our corporate lawyer to determine the legalities involved.

I'm glad you found the question interesting. I was a religion minor, so questions like this always fascinate me.
feyrieprincess
Mar. 11th, 2008 08:39 pm (UTC)
Wow. Yet another thing I did not know about you!!!

Thank-you by-the-way for this post. Thinking about this, and reading the thoughts of you and others, has been the intellectual equivalent of "Great Sex" for me today.

You have seriously improved my day.
mondragon
Mar. 11th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
I think that religious privilege is infuriating.
littleprinceaj
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:52 pm (UTC)
Especially when they get paid for it. I work in womens reproductive health...well lets just call it what it is. I work for an organization that provides abortion services. I have people 15 feet from my door everyday handing out misleading information and spreading the word of G*d and Christianity by being mean to women for whom this is the worst day in their lives.

Turns out some of the F'ers are getting paid to be out there. Talk about religious privilege.
pierceheart
Mar. 12th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
While agree it's disgusting, how is it privilege (private law), to use a sidewalk anyone else could be protesting and haranguing passersby (or customers going into a store, in the same way?

It's no more privilege than PETA screaming at people going into furriers.
littleprinceaj
Mar. 13th, 2008 03:02 am (UTC)
When standing on said sidewalk, feeling like it is ok to walk up to someone berate them, tell them that they are morally wrong and going to hell, is not the same as standing on the sidewalk and peacefully protesting or even yelling at shoppers as they enter a store.

Telling people that God has sent them to save their unborn child...well that's just creepy, possibly schizophrenic, and rude.

Look if we want to talk legal, I totally get that it is not illegal to be an asshole, but it doesn't make it right.

I am not sure if you can separate privilege, religious or otherwise when you see who the majority of the anti abortion protesters are. White upper middle class and middle class men. A traditionally privileged group to begin with.









kathryntact
Mar. 11th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
I thought it was an interesting question and so shot my sister an email. She works in the (semi-)upper eschelon of the HR department of an international financial company.

According to her, legally, a company is not obligated to give someone time off to go and spread the word of their religion, or leave work early to attend their religious services. She said that as long as an applicant for a job is honest about their "religious needs" most companies are willing to work with them provided that they are efficient folk, and all that needs to be done is.

You cannot discriminate against someone based on their religion, but if they cannot fulfill the work hours of the job due to their religion -- that isn't the hiring company's fault nor is it discrimination.
sotto_voce
Mar. 11th, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
Are these employees exempt or non-exempt?

I would ask them to make up the time by coming in early, using that time as their lunch hour or working late some evenings. If they have agreed to work a minimum of 40 hours per week for their salary, they need to do so.
ketzl
Mar. 11th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC)
I'm ok with flextime and there's no way in hell I'm going to start policing what my employees do on their off hours. I mean, I do NOT want to know. Just keep yer productivity up please, that's all I ask.

Well there's a little more-- there are certain core hours that an employee must be on duty, and outside of that employees are required to post their working hours on their voicemail and the group calendar. If they're not available during their posted working hours I'm gonna can them as feyrieprincess points out I can do at any time :)

Although it's not legal, I have a slight prejudice against hiring overly religious people... I still have done it, but the bar is higher. So sue me.
spiritfreedom
Mar. 11th, 2008 11:34 pm (UTC)
I spent 17 years in this religion so I am pretty qualified to answer any specific questions. If they are taking time out of their day and being paid for it, than that is wrong unless they are paid salary and it's ok to leave. They certainly will preach anytime they can. There are no certain times that they need to do so. Contrary to what was said above, they don't see it as anything similar to fasting. Some enjoy it but many see it as an obligation. They are all required though. They like to say that at a minimum they should do 10 hours a month of door-to-door work, but they have what are called pioneers who devote 90 hours a month to it.
feyrieprincess
Mar. 12th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
By fasting, I mean, "A practice which brings you closer to god"
spiritfreedom
Mar. 12th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I understand what you mean. My experience in that religion is not that it was a spiritual experience, but a requirement.
diabhol
Mar. 12th, 2008 02:46 am (UTC)
Sounds like someone who isn't getting hired by me.
brat_sheba
Mar. 12th, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC)
I was told that one of the tenets of this religion is that only 140,000 souls will be saved. So that begs the question...why proselytize...wouldn't that jeopardize your spot in the 140,000?
ncnefarious
Mar. 12th, 2008 11:38 pm (UTC)
They believe that only 144,000 are going to heaven. The rest will live in on Earth in a paradise.
captainwhimsy
Mar. 12th, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
Hmm.
For any time off I would make them make that time up elsewhere, or take it as vacation. Maybe these women work 6-3?
ncnefarious
Mar. 12th, 2008 11:47 pm (UTC)
Been there, done that...
I'm well behind in my comments, but I actually have some perspective on this. Believe it or not, I was raised JW and spent a few years in the full-time ministry as a "Pioneer," one of those with an expected minimum time in the field ministry.

Witnesses are allowed to take their kids out to attend religious conventions as it is considered an observance. They have one religious observance per year which falls on the same night as Passover. All Witnesses are required to attend.

Now, as far as times for Witnessing, it's up to each person. Some like street work, some prefer house to house. It's not fun, but you're expected to participate in this work or The Elders will have a conversation with you... uh oh!

Most Pioneers work part-time rather than full-time so they can have the flexibility for their ministry work. Sometimes folks will try to "Auxiliary Pioneer" once a year which is, last time I was around, sixty hours in a month. Some who work full time will try to rearrange their schedules for that month to meet those requirements.

I don't know if this answers much, but I know the logic behind their actions and their paradigm. Since I came out about the lifestyle I haven't had much contact with my family because this same paradigm uses emotional blackmail to try to get people back in line. Oh well... I have a great Leather Family that accepts me for who I am and what I do.
( 37 comments — Leave a comment )