Religion At Work

We can help you explore how religious identity and expression intersects with career and work. Some students choose to focus on advocacy or community-building work such as working for a religious organization. Other students may explore organizations or careers that reflect their religious values. Still others may have questions about religious expression in secular environments. We are here to help you answer any questions you may have while creating your action plan.

Do I share my religious affiliation/preference in the application process?

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether or not to share your religious affiliation/preference in the application process. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE article about Including Religion on a Resume advises against students sharing religious affiliation/preference in the application process too much. They report that disclosing it could hurt your chances of getting an interview with an organization. Even though it is illegal for organizations to discriminate on the basis of religion, hiring managers may still choose not to interview you if you clearly disclose your religious affiliation/ preference in your resume or cover letter. In general, offering your opinions on religion, politics, and other potentially hot topics during the hiring process might give hiring managers a reason not to give you an interview.

The one exception where you might consider sharing your religious affiliation/preference during the application process is if you are applying for an opportunity that aligns well with your religious affiliation/preference. Even with these opportunities, however, it is important to speak to a Career Coach about the implications of sharing your religious affiliation/preferences in these contexts.

Are there particular employment opportunities and internships accessible to students with a specific background?

Yes, there are particular employment opportunities and internships accessible to students with specific backgrounds. To see opportunities for those with certain religious affiliations/preferences, please refer to the Job and Internship Search resources, below.

How do I present my involvement with religious groups on campus on my resume or interview?

Religious experience can be an excellent addition to a resume to convey experience and skills you’ve learned. Discussing religious experience may come off as confusing for readers who are unfamiliar with your religious experience or may lead to bias in hiring, so use this experience limitedly. With this in mind, remember these key considerations when including religious experience on your resume:

  • Include only experience that is relevant to the goal of your resume
  • Write your experiences and descriptions in a way that is easily understood by people who are not familiar with your religious affiliation/preference
  • Religiously-affiliated position titles may be misleading or confusing, so use titles that still convey what you did, while being friendly to those who are not familiar with the terms

In general, if you are involved in a religious club or organization, you may be able to share your experiences with these clubs or organizations by highlighting the transferable skills you have gained through your involvement, such as planning events and leading community service efforts, without disclosing your particular religious affiliation/preference. Your emphasis should be on the relevant skills you learned and used through your involvement rather than on your actual religious duties or views. It is important to keep in mind that changing the language you use on your resume, cover letter, or in an interview doesn’t mean that you are abandoning your religious beliefs, instead you are being strategic about showcasing your most relevant skillset to an employer.

For more information and examples of how you could list your religious experience on your resume, please refer to our CPDC handout on Including Religious Experience on A Resume.

How can I request time off for religious holidays?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC) Best Practices for Eradicating Religious Discrimination in the Workplace, employees should advise their supervisors or managers of the nature of conflicts that arise between their work duties and their religious needs as soon as they are aware of such conflicts. When requesting time off for religious holidays, employees should provide enough information so that their employer adequately understands what accommodation is needed, and why it is necessitated by a religious practice or belief.

Unfortunately, there is no federal law that requires employers to grant employees time off for religious holidays. However, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers may not treat employees differently because of their religious affiliations and employees cannot be required to participate or not participate in religious activity as a condition of their employment. According to Title VII, employers that have more than 15 employees have a duty to provide reasonable accommodation to employees for religious observances, including their requests to take time off for religious holidays. Because employers could have multiple requests from employees for time off to observe religious holidays at the same time, employers should try to reasonably accommodate these requests in a consistent and nondiscriminatory manner. However, many states and municipalities require employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for employees’ religious observances.

It is important to consider that employers do not have to provide accommodation to employees for religious requests for time off if the employer can demonstrate that providing a reasonable accommodation would result in an “undue hardship” on the employer. A requested accommodation that is too costly, decreases workplace efficiency, compromises workplace safety, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their fair share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work could be considered an “undue hardship”.

For more information, including examples of reasonable accommodations and undue hardships, refer to the link above for the EEOC’s Best Practices and refer to the EEOC’s webpage on What You Should Know About Workplace Religious Accommodation.

Can I wear my religious garb to an interview or networking interaction?

The EEOC Best Practices for Eradicating Religious Discrimination in the Workplace states that employers should make every effort to accommodate an employee’s desire to wear religious garb, including a yarmulke or a hijab. According to the EEOC, if the employer is concerned about uniform appearance in a position that involves interaction with the public, it may be appropriate to consider whether the employee’s religious views would permit them to resolve the conflict by wearing their religious garb in the company’s uniform color(s), for example. In general, the EEOC advocates that managers and employers should be trained not to engage in stereotyping based on religious dress and grooming practices and should not assume that atypical dress that is related to an employee’s religion would cause undue hardship on the employer or other employees. Employers should also take responsibility for proactively and properly train all of their employees on these best practices to prevent any conflicts, misunderstandings, or discrimination between their employees regarding religious garb.

How can I evaluate if a future employer will be receptive to my religious observances?

Knowing as much as you can about an employer can help you evaluate whether or not they would be receptive to your religious observances. There are many ways you can learn about a company to see if they are a good fit for you. You can research them by looking at their website, talk to current or past employees and learn about their experiences, see how the employer appears in news and on social media, see if they’ve earned any honors or awards relating to diversity, etc. If you have the opportunity to speak to a current or past employee of the organization, you might consider asking them questions about how the employer handles requests for religious observances. If you are comfortable, you can also contact the Human Resources division and ask them what the employer’s policies are around religious observances. In general, the more knowledge you can gain and research you can do ahead of time, the better able you’ll be able to determine whether an employer will be receptive to your religious observances.

We understand these resources may not cover all of your questions. To talk further about these resources or other topics, login to Cranium Café (ConexEd) to make an appointment with any available Career Coach if you are a current student or login to Handshake to make an appointment with our Alumni Career Coach if you are an alum. We also know that the content we have shared here is not exhaustive and that resources on identity are continually evolving. If you would like to share your comments or suggestions with us to help us improve our content, please email us at careers@sa.utah.edu. We welcome your feedback anytime.

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