Discrimination in the workplace

“The Sky Fairy is angered! Hide!”

In between lulls at work the clerks and cashiers, instead of doing prep work or cleaning, often stand around and chat. Eventually, one conversation veered into one of the taboos of workplace interaction: Talking about religion or politics.

Last year a clerk and cashier, who here I will call Cindy and Julie, began trading stories of their brushes with the unseen world. I was kind of half-paying attention while I audited the money of a cash drawer ensuring money coming in and going out balanced.

“I saw a ghost, once, too! It was so weird and scary. Yet somehow, I felt that I was being reassured.” Cindy said.

Julie’s voice became excited. “I know! See, I always forget to clock out for lunch until about a quarter after. Guess when my Grandma died? 15 minutes past two! It’s like she is here telling me something.”

Listening to their exchange caused me to roll my eyes so much I had to recount the cash. Without realizing it I was laughing. It took a few moments but Cindy and Julie realized I was amused by their conversation. They stopped their chat and directed their attentions towards me.

“What’s so funny?” Cindy was sounding defensive. Julie stared angrily.

“You didn’t see any ghosts. There are no such things.” I said, going straight into JREF-mode, still chuckling. Usually when I am exposed to an adult talking about the supernatural as if it were real I’m just kind of sad and disappointed. But today for some reason I found the idea hilarious. I tried to come off as rational and not condescending. I wasn’t very successful at the attempt. When the two repeated that they did see and experience a supernatural event I replied. “No, you didn’t.”

“Are you calling us liars?” Julie demanded. They were both becoming upset. I always have some prepared  statements in the mental file. The argument I put forth was perhaps lacking in tact itself. My mistake was in assuming the pair were open for a debate.

“You are either making it up, making connections where none exist or you are deluded.” I said. “Magic and the supernatural absolutely does not exist. If it did the evidence would be overwhelming. It would be everywhere. No one could dispute it. Without exception it’s all someone’s personal opinion. If it was factual, if it was real it could be recorded and measured in a form other than anecdotal.”

Julie leaned forwards toward me as if to emphasize he words even though we were several work stations apart. “Oh.” She said. Her voice was ripe with scorn. “What are you…an Atheist?”

That’s exactly how she said it. I could actually hear the italics. Total emphasis on the disgust. Yet what I took from it is she just wanted an uncomfortable conversation to end. It did, not because of the attempted put down or because she had an epiphany but because customers started walking up with their groceries to check out. For the rest of the day they both acted chilly and would not talk to me unless they had to.

Cindy let it go by the end of the shift, displaying a cool shoulder towards me probably in a show of solidarity with Julie. Cindy is young and has presumably has access to the internet so there is hope for her. I was over it immediately. But from then on Julie remained stand-offish and treated me like I had the plague. In her job as a manager, the same as I but with her possessing slightly less seniority, she would not address me unless she had no choice. Julie would call an adjacent work station and have them relay requests or instructions. She would not directly interact in person and would move people around to make sure she was a far from me in the row of check stands as possible. Sometimes she would swap 4 or 5 people and their duties around so she would not have to herself personally relieve me for breaks or for shift changes. If she was the designated person in charge of the shift that day I was passed over for opportunities or tasks that traditionally would be mine or excluded from the process of decision-making.

For my part I certainly didn’t hold it against Julie that she was a believer in the Unreal. She was competent at her job and that’s where my concerns ended. Julie was one of the few I worked with who did not adhere to the Culture of Half-Assedness that exists in so many work places. But Julie made it clear she had washed her hands of me. Julie employed a somewhat subtle form of marginalization and discrimination but it was there. It was particularly noticeable when comparing our work relationship as it existed prior to my taking on the role of Ghostbuster.

Julie used to ask my advice on how to perform certain tasks and duties. I was glad to help. She was one of those managers who because of tighter economic times was given minimal training and dropped into the job. It wasn’t her personal failing if she hadn’t been exposed to or given the opportunities others in her position had. Whenever she expressed frustration and not knowing as much about the job as other managers I let her know there is nothing wrong with that, just keep asking questions until you know everything. Something she accepted and I would presume appreciated at least as far as the job went.

In hardly any time at all I went from being a co-worker to The Enemy. If Julie had been in a higher position of authority or had more influence with the upper echelons of management it could have presented me with a problem that could have easily affected my employment. Not from our original conversation about ghosts but due to her trying to force me out of a job solely because I was, in her view, not fit to be around her sort of good people. This discriminatory practice against the non-devout and those with religions not in the mainstream is not rare and in some cases can be quite overt and extreme. Employment can and has been negatively affected. When Julie was transferred to a new work site it was a relief only because her behavior was getting hilariously absurd.  

To this day I don’t know what her personal religious beliefs are. I could hazard a guess based upon her actions and the way I was treated by her but I don’t want to speculate. I require evidence.

10 thoughts on “Discrimination in the workplace

  1. Wow. Seriously. Just noticed your above 'Moderation enabled only because of Christians who keep acting like Christians. That is…Racist, homophobic hate-mongers.'And that's not prejudiced? Racist? Like what? I don't understand how you made that leap. Christians are racist? *blinks* My church has people of pretty much every race. (You know homophobic I'll let slide, because I encounter it a lot. Apart from the gay priests I know of course. And the gay people running the Methodist church. And me. And my friends… but other than those gay Christians, I get it)I was going to comment about how I have had prejudice in the work place about being a Christian. Snide comments about delusions, believing in an invisible friend in the sky etc. To be honest I am pretty agnostic, but behaviour like that makes me edge more towards being a Christian because athiests seem so hateful at times. And it means I have to stay quiet and feel embarassed about having a faith at all. I've been following your blog for a couple of years. I am just so completely thrown by your judgemental comment above here. I don't want to 'flounce', but I hope you can at least look at it again and see that in a moment of anger you have made yourself look prejudiced too.

  2. I've said it elsewhere, but the only troll problems I've ever experienced were from self proclaimed Christians. Again, the only reason I enabled moderation was from constant harassment by someone and his compatriots (or sock puppets) who became angered I wasn't interested in being saved.

  3. What prompted the workplace comments you experienced? Where you sitting reading a bible and your coworkers attacked? Well that's wrong and rude. Were the comments spontaneous and for no reason or cause, just a vicious and random drive-by of words? Did you comment that some tragedy was God's Will and you were mocked?I'm also going to call BS on your statement that mean Atheists are going to push you into religion. It's clear where you are in regards to that. Don't pull the victim card. And I am prejudiced but it is towards irrationality. I have absolutely no respect for believers in the supernatural. Thousands of years of testimony have not led to one bit of evidence it exists.

  4. I wasn't sitting and reading a Bible. People just make jokes about Christians being nuts all the time. Perhaps it is a cultural difference between Britain and America. I happen to know a lot of people who feel that jokes about religion etc are sort of routine. I would never say some tragedy was God's will. I don't believe in that kind of God. I have spent hours of my life having great debates with Christians, reading theology and philosophy and trying to understand the possibility of a God-created world. Sometimes I doubt, sometimes I believe. The Christians I know would never say those kind of things. Yes, I went to a very liberal church, but that's exactly the point. There are both liberal and conservative Christians. It's unfair to treat us all the same. And yes, whilst you say 'don't pull the victim card' try and see this. I say I am a Christian and yet your reply is already full of judgments about how I might be at work. According to you I am homophobic etc etc. You paint a caricature of a Christian as irrational. In the Methodist church in Britain ministers train as local preachers for four years. They are usually asked to learn Hebrew or Greek to be able to read the Bible in its original language. They are expected to study theology and have a requirement of 300ft of shelving in their houses -for all the theology books! The ministers I have known have been wise thoughtful people I could go to for help. Never irrational. You're right Atheists don't push me into belief. It's an exaggeration. They just often seem pretty pushy and evangelistic about non-belief. But not all atheists are like this. I even find some evangelic Christians annoying. I do accept that both believers and non-believers can be aggressive and judgmental. And it feels like you are being both.

  5. I have to say my personal experience in Britain has been different. I could not tell you which of my coworkers was Christian because it's never come up. Religion doesn't come up among my Goth friends, either, although I know one or two are Wiccan. I don't believe I have ever heard anyone in either of these groups either make an overtly Christian-based statement, or a negative comment about any religion. Unless you count comments made about when some Catholic priest gets in the news for child abuse as an attack on Christianity.All of which proves nothing other than general statements about any large group of people are inaccurate.OrigamiGirl, It's great that you have found Christians who are so unprejudiced, but if you are up on current American politics you must be aware of how much prejudice is being pushed, to the point of enacting laws, in the name of religion. I'm pretty sick of hearing about it, and I don't even live there.Slee, the world is full of people who believe dumb things, like they stand any chance of winning the lottery, or that two random events happening at the same time are connected, or that there's sound in space. Save it for those that are preaching things that are actively harmful, like homoeopathy. Calling someone deluded is not the way to change someone's mind about anything. Of course the jump to atheism is a little odd, and then subsequently treating you as the enemy. However, as that's unChristian behaviour and goes against the specific teachings of Jesus, I don't think she was a very good at Christianity.

  6. I'll let you all have the last word in here if you want. Thanks for your comments.For the most basic example of workplace discrimination compare workers who ask to be off Sunday for church to those who want the same day off for anything else and see who gets the most requests granted. As someone who worked HR I've had plenty of complaints come my way I had to mediate. Of course, anyone could point fingers and say how individuals, or even groups of same are on their own bad, hateful, nasty. "But Xians..! But Wiccans..! But ..Atheists..!" Sure. Don't get me started on the actual record of Mother Theresa, who is a perfect example of the hypocritical evil of organized religion.But Atheism, at it's core, is not inherently cruel. Religion, in particular Christianity, is. Letting people suffer, exist in slavery both real and psychological, to remain in your place and obey is at the root of those particular tenants. All manner of suffering is expected to be endured for some mythical reward after death in which the lowest will be raised up to the equal of the village chieftain or feudal lord.Religion is not about doing good or freedom. It is about power, keeping the tribe under control, ignorant, under heel and that I will not have tolerance nor respect for.

  7. OrigamiGirl – Sleestak's point with this post, as I understand it, is not about evangelizing Atheism or degrading Christianity. He's heavy-handed in his treatment of superstition, sure. But he's a person who values rationality, and he's writing on his own blog, so that should come as no surprise to anyone. Especially someone who claims to have read his blog for years.No, the point was about descrimination in the workplace. The two coworkers were not out of line for talking ghosts in the workplace. Slee was not out of line for giggling or disagreeing. Up to that point, both parties were well within their rights. Assuming (as we must, since there's no other party to counter) that Slee is being perfectly honest in the retelling – only "Julie" stepped out of line when she made it a personal matter. She allowed a coworkers personal beliefs to become cause for workplace friction. And if she held a higher position in the workplace, that would indeed be descrimination.Replace the word "Atheist" with the word "Muslim" and you'll have a better perspective. It's wise policy to keep your head down at work when it comes to politics or religion, but if one does choose to "live out loud", one has a right to fair treatment anyway. Be they Christian, Atheist, Buddist, Muslim etc.The rest of your points I think can be bundled into the category of "You're not nice". You don't consider enlightened Christians like my friends, you don't consider this, you don't consider that. That may well be true, but has nothing to do with this particular discussion.

  8. "But Atheism, at it's core, is not inherently cruel. Religion, in particular Christianity, is."Aside from needing the word "other" between "cruel and religion", the Atheist faith has a horrific record for cruelty. I'm not fond of "my religion is better than yours" arguments, and yours happens to be one of them.

  9. It would be unfair if Sleestak had said all Chritians were hateful misogynistic etc etcetera … cretins, but he didn't he pointed out quite accurately what the word Christain has come to mean to many thanks to the behavior of many who claim to be Chritians. Most Muslims are perfectly nice ordinary people too, no jihads or fatwahs on their mind, which means if you don't like how you're religion is seen do something about the people allowed to represent it in public. K? It's simple, Khameni bad for Muslims, Romney bad for Mormons, Perkins .. Warren.. and on and on and on bad for Protestants, the Pope his court many priests and a sizable minority of the laity (Hello, Mr. Santorum, Mr. Ryan.) are bad for Catholics. Atheists have the same right as anybody else to decline to convert, especially on their own blogs. No one's religion or philosophy is a license for unprofessional behavior at work (Hello again to the GOP's Taliban wannabes.) or uncivil behavior anytime, like the kind that got the KKK and the FRC labeled hate groups.Love, M

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