, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 75-94
Date: 05 Oct 2013

Religious Accommodation in the Workplace: Understanding Religious Identity Threat and Workplace Behaviors in Legal Disputes

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This study examined workplace religious accommodation disputes under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. We analyzed spirituality and religion in the workplace (SRW) legal disputes between 2000 and 2011, using case facts from 83 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decisions. Utilizing a multi-step cluster analysis methodology and thematic coding, we defined behaviors associated with court cases and demographics of actors in the cases. We found 15 distinct workplace behaviors that appear in SRW legal disputes, and seven demographic or descriptive labels. Cluster analysis using Jaccard’s index and MDS revealed multiple behavioral co-occurrences, indicating that certain problematic behaviors tend to occur together in the workplace. We also found that certain behaviors occur alone, potentially being problematic in themselves. Using religious identity theory and self-referencing theory as frameworks, we fit both behaviors and demographics into an explanatory model for our outcomes, providing insight into organizational conditions that may precede religious accommodation disputes that escalate into legal action. We end the article with a discussion of future research avenues.

A version of this paper was presented at the 2012 Academy of Management annual meeting, Boston. A synopsis version appeared in the Academy’s Best Paper Proceedings for Boston. We are grateful to Mathew Sheep and Marc Lavine for developmental comments on earlier drafts. We also thank Andrew Smith for his help with graphic design.