Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 75-94

First online:

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

  • Kathy Lund DeanAffiliated withEconomics & Management Department, Gustavus Adolphus College Email author 
  • , Scott R. SafranskiAffiliated withManagement Department, Saint Louis University
  • , E. Scott LeeAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Idaho State University

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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.


Religious accommodation Religious workplace disputes Title VII Spirituality workplace disputes Cluster analysis Multidimensional scaling Religious identity