Home Christian News Study: Christians, Jews and Muslims Encounter Workplace Discrimination Differently

Study: Christians, Jews and Muslims Encounter Workplace Discrimination Differently

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(RNS) — Christians, Jews and Muslims encounter workplace discrimination, but they experience it differently, according to a new report by Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program.

While Muslims and Jews say they’ve felt targeted by anti-Islamic and antisemitic rhetoric, it’s most often in the context of being seen as part of a larger group, they said in the study. Whereas evangelical Christians say they more often feel singled out when taking an individual stand based on their moral views, the report found.

Rachel Schneider, one of the report’s authors, said they learned that people often experienced workplace discrimination in the form of microaggressions — such as stereotyping and othering — not just in the hiring, firing and promotion process.

“It was these everyday practices and behaviors in the workplace that was really surprising to learn more about how they’ve manifested,” said Schneider, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Religion and Public Life Program.

The report, “How Religious Discrimination Is Perceived in the Workplace: Expanding the View,” draws its research from Rice University’s “Faith at Work: An Empirical Study,” which included a survey of more than 11,000 people. Additionally, researchers conducted in-depth interviews with nearly 200 of those who were surveyed, including 159 Christians, 13 Jews, 10 Muslims and 12 nonreligious people. The research was funded by the Lilly Endowment.

A large proportion of Muslim (63%) and Jewish (52%) participants reported religious discrimination compared with other religious groups.

Perceptions of religious discrimination varied within Christian subgroups, with evangelical Protestants the most likely to report experiencing religious discrimination (36%), whereas roughly 20% of Catholics and mainline Protestants each reported religious discrimination, according to the report. About a quarter of other Christian/other Protestants say the same (24%).

Among nonreligious participants, 27% perceived religious discrimination in the workplace.

Through in-depth interviews, Jewish and Muslim participants described verbal microaggressions tied to antisemitic and anti-Islamic stereotypes.

One white Jewish woman working in social services in Indiana detailed co-workers using a common antisemitic trope, saying she was “good at bookkeeping and keeping track of money.” In another example, a white Jewish man who works in information technology in Florida described hearing comments such as “Well, Jews run all the banks.”

Similarly, Muslims described Islamophobic sentiment in the workplace.

An Asian Muslim man who is an engineer in New York mentioned colleagues expressing anti-Muslim views along the lines of “Muslims are extremists,” although he didn’t consider this to be discrimination or directed at him explicitly, according to the report.

In a more extreme example, a white Muslim woman working in sales at a construction company in Louisiana said she was “harassed” when she converted to Islam. She was “ridiculed” after deciding to cover her head and dress more modestly. Signs were put up in the office, with one reading “I tried to see your point of view, but your point of view is stupid.”

Schneider said Muslims and Jewish people didn’t feel they could take advantage of religious accommodations in the workplace, such as access to prayer rooms, because they would have their co-workers “looking at them a certain way.” Researchers found Jewish and Muslim women “concealed or downplayed their religious identity in the workplace to preempt discrimination.”

Muslims and Jews also felt like they were treated as foreign or exotic. “People didn’t really know how to act around them,” Schneider said.

Christians, particularly those who are evangelical, reported that verbal microaggressions often took the form of specific name-calling.