A real-life illustration of our blog’s message appeared on September 8, 2015 when newswires reported the story of a “Muslim flight attendant for ExpressJet who says she was wrongly suspended from her job...because she refused to alcohol to passengers, citing her religious beliefs.”
A review of the details (link to the full USA Today article appears at the end of this blog) shows that ExpressJet started off on the right track: after flight attendant Charee Stanley had converted to Islam and learned that her faith prohibited the handling/consumption of alcohol, Stanley approached ExpressJet management on June 1 to request religious accommodation.
ExpressJet accommodated Stanley's request by having the employee work out an arrangement with her fellow flight attendants. This well-meaning support dovetails nicely with advisories published on the EEOC’s website which states in part (underlining added): “The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices... [e]xamples of some common religious accommodations include...modifications to workplace policies or practices.” So far, so good…diversity upheld.
On August 2, the article continues, a fellow ExpressJet employee filed a complaint that Stanley was not fulfilling her duties.
On August 25, ExpressJet responded by revoking the religious accommodation and suspending Stanley.
Such actions appear to severely dilute ExpressJet’s diversity and accommodation efforts, all the more given certain remarks in the fellow employee’s complaint, i.e., that Stanley had a “book with ‘foreign writings’ and wore a head scarf." These comments imply a lack of understanding on the part of this fellow employee that could have been remedied by education.
Our earlier blog post observed, “Inclusion is creating a work environment where every employee feels they are safe, can contribute and can succeed.” Did ExpressJet add inclusion to its diversity efforts by educating the fellow employee about “foreign writings” and “head scarfs” before deciding to revoke Stanley’s religious accommodation and suspending her? To be fair, if ExpressJet did attempt to so educate the fellow employee, the article doesn’t say so.
But a clue lies in the formulaic press statement made by ExpressJet spokesperson which – to our earlier blog’s point – takes into account only half of the equation (diversity) and omits its essential companion (inclusion). As reported in the news article, ExpressJet spokesperson Jarek Beem told CBS: “We are an equal opportunity employer with a long history of diversity in our workforce." That’s good to hear, but we don’t see the word “inclusion” in the spokesperson’s statement…do you?
Pioneering psychologist Carl Jung said, "You are what you do, not what you say you do." When we do diversity and inclusion as two halves of the same coin - not separately and not just in words - then we all prosper and succeed...employees and employers alike.
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Regards, PhoenixHR LLC
Click here to read the USA Today news article cited in this blog.
Related: Is Diversity Destroying Your Company?
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