Thoughts and Prayers
October 28, 2017 at 2:27 pm #5899
Hi all, I wanted to get your opinion on something.
At the company where I work, whenever an employee’s family member dies the whole company gets an email informing us of the event, and we are asked to keep the bereaved in our “thoughts and prayers.”
I probably don’t need to explain to you why that infuriates me. What I wanted to ask was, do you think I should say something? I’m considering sending an anonymous letter to HR. On the one hand, it’s not really about me, it’s about someone who’s family member just died. But on the other hand, this smacks of religious favoritism and my company has a clear policy against religious discrimination. Plus, I’m just really uncomfortable getting prayer requests from my employer. Am I overreacting?October 28, 2017 at 5:24 pm #5900
I wouldn’t see it as religious favouritism or discrimination. I don’t think your rights are being discriminated against, except the right not to be asked to participate in religious practices on the death of the loved one of an employee.
So, I don’t see that as a serious infraction of your rights. If you don’t have “thoughts and prayers”, the bereaved can’t be in them, so it’s not an issue. If you’re outright asked to pray, I guess that would be an uncomfortable moment.October 28, 2017 at 5:48 pm #5901
I see this as a serious infraction if the email comes from management. I have seen emails like this in my company, but they were sent by regular employees who do not represent company policy. If management sent an email requesting prayers I would alert them to discontinue the practice with an anonymous letter.October 28, 2017 at 5:49 pm #5902
I don’t think it’s outright discrimination, and we’re not being forced to pray, which is why I’m worried I’m overreacting. I just don’t think “keep so-and-so in your thoughts and prayers” is a statement that should come from your employer in a company-wide email. I do read it as an outright request to pray, and that’s what upsets me.October 28, 2017 at 5:51 pm #5903
@_Robert_ The emails come from the executive assistant, and I’m not sure who is giving her the orders to send these out (or if she is doing them of her own volition); I’m guessing HR gives her the notice of death. So yes, it’s different than if my coworker sends a private email to a few other coworkers asking for prayers (I’ve gotten these before too), because it’s going out to everyone in the company.October 28, 2017 at 5:54 pm #5904
agree with you Beth…it is common practice and underlying the request is a religious mindset of intolerance and demand to conform…but keep your complaint anonymous because the risk involved in being public about gripe is too greatOctober 28, 2017 at 6:04 pm #5905
What upsets me is their assumption (thoughtless as it may be) that every single one of their employees is on god’s team.October 28, 2017 at 6:45 pm #5906
@_Robert_ That’s the Midwest for you.October 28, 2017 at 7:07 pm #5907
Reg the Fronkey FarmerModerator
It is a form of religious discrimination even if it is not intentional. The manager \ management are themselves religious and assume that everyone else is. They most likely have good intentions in sending the email. However, as management, rather than a worker, they should be aware of their corporate responsibilities. They should know that they cannot discriminate on grounds of race, sex, age or religion. By sending the email – no matter how well meaning they think they are – they are probably breaking the law. I am not sure of the exact laws where you are but you could contact the FFRF for help and clarification (or a local ACLU).
I know people reading this will want to reply that doing so would be an overreaction. I say bollox to them. It is an abuse of privilege. We are entitled to be free from other people’s religious sentiments when we are at work.
I had a very similar experience about 15 years ago when working for a US multinational company. I got an email from a person in HR asking me to pray for the soul of the father of a work colleague of mine. He had died suddenly. I had driven him to the airport 2 night previously to get him home (to the USA) for the funeral. I had often (probably weekly) had emails from her which were not work related. They just had some religious nonsense in them. I knew she did not even know the deceased and hardly knew my colleague (and occasional beer drinking buddy).
I politely replied “to all”, i.e. the entire company, that I wanted to be removed from her mailing list if it had any further religious overtones. I wrote that her asking us to pray for a man none of us knew or ever met was not helping anyone. I said I had no idea what “praying” entailed and did not understand the point of it as the man was dead. Her manager immediately replied “to all” demanding in no uncertain terms that I apologize to all the “offended” Christians in the company and he expressed concern for the state of my soul.
I immediately replied “to all” with just two words….”Blow me”.
Then I wrote to my direct manager and said I would consider suing if the HR manager did not publicly (email to all) apologize to me and refrain in future from religious fanaticism during work hours as he was breaking the law and he should go learn something about modern employment law if he was to continue with the company.
Ok, I am not suggesting a similar approach. I just don’t allow any assumed religious privilege or false piety to go unchecked. I don’t care who it is. Just as a manager cannot get away with racism or sexism, he (or she) cannot get away with religious discrimination. It is on a par with any other offensive behavior and I react to all of them equally, with zero tolerance.
Three weeks later when he returned to work we went for beers and had a really good time. I was able to pass on my experience of losing my father a year earlier. The conversations really helped him with a new perspective and probably helped me too. That’s what happens when we actually do something positive and don’t just engage in wishful thinking.October 28, 2017 at 7:19 pm #5908
Reg also has a cat called “Thoughts & Prayers” as apparently it does absolutely nothing.
I would probably have replied to the email requesting which particular god needed harassing so I could manifest the appropriate speech. Or something similar- but then again, I was never much of a conforming employee 🙂October 28, 2017 at 8:05 pm #5909
Haha! I’ll start with a politely worded (anonymous) letter and go from there. I’ll definitely be keeping a paper trail just in case I do need to get the FFRF or ACLU involved.October 28, 2017 at 9:44 pm #5910
Reg the Fronkey FarmerModerator
Just make sure you are interpreting the law (in your State) correctly, though it probably falls under Federal Law. Make sure you know which specific laws they are violating (chapter and verse) but don’t let them know the exact detail of the law that you are aware of. Just politely ask the manager to refrain from including you. Don’t explain why you don’t want to be included or explain the law about it to them. That is for them to know and interpret. If you suffer any further discrimination or hassle for raising the subject then you will have a good defense. They have a duty of care towards all employees and are supposed to comply with employee legislation. Claiming ignorance of the law is not a defense especially if a company director is involved. I have held a few directorships over the years and had to study employee legislation and employers responsibilities. It would be the same as claiming they did not know they could not be racist. I am thinking of European Law here so maybe JakeLafort will comment on what I have said.October 29, 2017 at 9:34 am #5916
I have been out of law for 8 years so i can’t speak with any conviction.
My hunch is that Beth’s employer is not violating any state of federal statute. Nor is the first amendment invoked in terms of the company missive having a chilling effect on speech since the state action requirement is absent (unless Beth works for the state)
If Beth makes her gripe without cover of anonymity and suffers repercussions for having done so, then she very likely has a claim for discrimination based on religion under the civil rights act and probably statute(s) under state law.
It does strike me as the kind of issue that might be of interest to the ACLU. It is likely that theists would view Beth’s stance and perspective as oversensitive and lacking in substance. Atheists, particularly those among us who have experienced this kind of thing will see it differently.October 29, 2017 at 9:46 am #5918
@jakelafort – “It is likely that theists would view Beth’s stance and perspective as oversensitive and lacking in substance. Atheists, particularly those among us who have experienced this kind of thing will see it differently.”
– surely these things need to be taken on a case by case basis, and I have to say, “oversensitive and lacking in substance” is how it looks to me. So, to bring a case against this when it’s really a case against all those other more egregious examples of coercion or discrimination – isn’t a good idea. It’s crying wolf. It’s the kind of thing that people can point at and (rightly in my opinion) say that atheists are just snowflakes who make a fuss about nothing, which undermines all those actual serious cases. I think it also goes directly against the spirit of straightforward goodwill when someone has just died, that, on the face of it, the management is showing.
What might be appropriate is to ask them to reword the messages of sympathy to say something like “if you have thoughts and prayers”, “for those who are believers” or something like that – that includes something for nonbelievers, which makes it more useful.October 29, 2017 at 12:05 pm #5920
The company could change its messages to say “thoughts, prayers and remembrances”, and this would be a tactful way of 1) including Beth; 2) being tactful.
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