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Published:September 8th, 2009 20:30 EST
Should You Mention Religious Obligations in an Interview?

Should You Mention Religious Obligations in an Interview?

By SOP newswire2

It`s the morning of your big interview, and in addition to your usual jitters, something else is weighing on you: your faith. When your faith is a daily part of your life, it`s inevitable that you will bring your spiritual life to the workplace, whether it be in dress, time off, or a room in which to pray.

You might feel strongly that you should make your potential employer aware of your needs, but is your initial interview the right time to address it? DiversityInc spoke to experts to help you approach this sensitive issue the right way, from establishing your personal comfort zone to the legal issues involved....

Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), adds, "The only exception I can think of is if a religious obligation would in some way interfere with specific requirements of the job. Otherwise, I don`t think it`s really any of the employer`s business."

Jumping the gun could also scare off an employer before you even have your foot in the door. Hooper warns, "It`s not something I would recommend because the last thing an employer wants is somebody who`s going to bring complications of any sort to the workplace. So in a tough job environment, they`ll go on to the next person."

For millions of practicing Muslims in America, the month-long holiday of Ramadan marks an annual occasion to ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and use self-restraint and good deeds to purify themselves.

Meanwhile, companies are hoping this year`s holiday observances, which began Aug. 22, are not marred by ill will and dissention among the ranks of workers, as happened in Nebraska last fall.

After a year-long investigation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Aug. 28 condemned the actions of Nebraska meatpacker J.B. Swift for its treatment last year of Somali Muslim workers who picketed for accommodations to properly observe Ramadan, which includes fasting from sunrise to sunset and praying at specific times.

"Such accommodations would not have posed an undue hardship to [Swift]" the EEOC states, noting that the evidence unearthed by the EEOC`s investigation established that Swift`s supervisors "subjected Somali Muslim employees to unlawful harassment, disparate treatment, and discrimination in terms and conditions of employment based on their religion, national origin, race and color."

The EEOC`s conclusion marks a turning point in the struggle for religious accommodation in the workplace, according to Christina Abraham, civil rights director at the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which had asked the EEOC to investigate Swift`s actions.

"This determination is a major victory for the Somali Muslim workers and for every employee who has been denied reasonable religious accommodation," Abraham says. "Americans work hard and they deserve to be able to earn a living, while knowing they are not sacrificing their beliefs to put food on the table."