I work for a university foundation and fundraise over the phone. Because we spend most of our time listening to the phone ringing, my coworkers and I often chat while waiting for someone to finally answer. We talk about our classes, the news, and pretty much everything.

I don't normally care what people say in the workplace because I'm not the type to be offended easily. People have the right to their opinions. Unfortunately, my coworkers and supervisor do not share this belief. My supervisor has the general rule of not talking about politics or religion. However, when a group of girls sitting behind me started talking about their idea of "Christian morals" and how divorce and a wide array of other common things in society are wrong, it was perfectly fine with the supervisor.

The second I said that one doesn't have to be a Christian to have moral integrity and that not all Christian morals are universal, my supervisor told me to be quiet and that what I said "crossed the line." I was being perfectly polite and, in my opinion, their comments about how immoral people are were much more offensive than my comment about morality in the absence of religion.

My question: how do I stand up for myself when I know that I am being discriminated against at work by a supervisor? If I can't talk about not being a Christian, they shouldn't get to talk about being Christians. That's a perfectly reasonable request to me. 

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The don't talk about religion or politics code usually means don't engage in religious or political arguments.

Usually the supervisor opinion will be biased, in fact it's always biased.

apparently this will continue as long as atheism isn't the main stream.

I would question him and ask him why others aren't being told the same. You could always take this up with a higher up manager and make the point that you are being discriminated against. 

What he means is, unless you agree with him, then there is no discussion of religion or politics.  You could try to say that you find their speech offensive, and that you were under the impression that any talk of religion was not permitted.  Good luck with this one though, Christians + Logic has never worked out too well historically.

I know what you mean because I live in the bible belt. The problem was that I did not want to engage them in debate; I just wanted them to be aware that their conversation accused many perfectly nice people of being immoral, which is obviously offensive to any non-Christian.


Frankly, I'm not worried about losing my job. I have two jobs and I've raised more money for the university than any other student since my alumni director has been here. I don't even need the job, I just do it because it's fun and less than a mile from my house. They need me more than I need them.

Normally, I avoid conversations like this. However, this is not the first time something like this has happened. Since I believe differently from most everyone I work with, I am constantly being targeted. Once I was written up for telling a coworker what the results of Super Tuesday were; I didn't even express an opinion on the matter! I said names and percentages. If the rule is "no debate," I'm missing something here. If percentage points are debatable, that's news to me.

Actually your supervisor acted appropriately. Rather than entering into any dispute about the beliefs of your Christian coworkers, you should have instead quietly brought it up as complaint to the supervisor. If it's policy, they violated it. But first you should have interrupted your coworkers and simply reminded them about the policy: "Your conversation is interesting, and I'd like to join in, but we've been told not to discuss things here at work of a political or religious nature. When people violate those policies around me, it makes me feel uncomfortable. I know you want to talk about certain things while they are fresh in your mind, but unfortunately this is neither the time or place." If they continue THEN approach your supervisor. Let him know that you warned them and the words used. Let him handle it from there. If he refuses, then pass the issue up the line. If you exhaust remedy you have legal grounds against the company - and your employer knows it.

I'd be very careful how you deal with this. I would not go to any higher ups. The blowback or drama that could come from this is just so not worth it. As someone who has gotten involved in a lot of drama and is now sick of it, please think it through before you do anything rash.

I might suggest saying, "I disagree" when these things come up. It doesn't get into detail, so nothing to get in trouble for. If they ask why, I would state the rules, "I'm not allowed to talk about politics or religion at work. I'd be happy to tell you why later." I've always found "I disagree" to be the perfect shutdown and it gets them to talk about a subject on your terms rather than you on theirs. Also, by stating the rule for yourself, you put your supervisor on the spot to enforce it for others. Hope that helps.

I can only offer one bit of advice, make a recording of such a conversation and then bring it to your supervisor's attention (or his superior) in an email. As you have gathered "evidence" you would then have to be taken seriously. If you start to discuss this without such proof, what you'll almost always hear is "that's not true, that wasn't said" "I'm sure you just misunderstood" "No, that was not what was being meant" etc.

Rob, depending on where she lives, she can be prosecuted for that. If you do this in your life, I'd be really careful.

http://www.rcfp.org/rcfp/orders/docs/CANWETAPE.pdf

Really? Damn, I sometimes forget that the US is a silly place when it comes to these matters. Where I come from being allowed to tape things at the workfloor when there is a valid reason to do so, (for instance after complaints, etc). Since a private person does not have the same possibilities as a officer of the law, taping conversations is allowed, but not for anything else than a matter between employee or employer.

For instance, if my colleague would be racist/discriminatory towards me and I would have made a tape recording of it, I could use it to proof my complaint, yet this evidence cannot be used to sack the person making the racist comments.

My apologies for giving an advice that could land people in court.... silly me.

All good, Rob. Was also concerned for you! 

I agree, we can be a little silly. Recording conversations is illegal surveillance when we do it, but when the US government does it it's for our own protection. 

As was pointed at earlier, it depends on where you live in the U.S. The vast majority of the U.S. only requires one person to know of the taping. It also depends on if the person is in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy. 

And the government is typically supposed to have a warrant before it records (again it depends on where you are at...)

Right. It all depends which state re: one way recorded conversation.

Federal government does not need a warrant. Patriot Act took care of that little detail.

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