Archive for July 2016

Workforce Diversity – Islam (Muslims) in the American Workplace

Many devout Muslims attend weekly services at their mosques on Fridays around noon.

Many devout Muslims attend weekly services at their mosques on Fridays around noon.

When I wrote my blog last month, “Islamophobia – a Growing US Diversity Issue,” I promised to follow up with blogs about Islam in the workplace and the intersection of LGBT issues with Islam. So here is the workplace blog.

With over 2.5 million Muslims now living in the United States, including many who were born in this country, it is very likely that you will have Muslim coworkers, customers, managers and / or employees. So it is important to understand some of the items which may come up in the workplace with this aspect of religious and multicultural diversity.

Here are just three items to consider:

1) The Muslim religious obligation. For the devout Muslim, the most holy time when many Muslims go to their mosque to worship is Friday at noon. Many Muslims would appreciate having an extended lunch hour to attend services. I once had a devout Muslim working for me, and I made sure to never schedule a department meeting around noon on Fridays nor expected him to attend key meetings around the time.

2) Interaction with women. The devout Muslim woman is not allowed to have physical contact except with her husband or close male relative. This may be important to consider when a female Muslim work associate is being introduced to a male. Often our custom is to shake hands when introduced, but this may not be feasible in this case. If you know you are being introduced to a Muslim woman, simply nod your head in acknowledgement and say “very glad to meet you.” If you are unaware that the woman is Muslim and she does not extent her hand back to you, please do not be offended. I would hope that the Muslim woman would be gracious and say something like “my religion does not permit me to touch a male, but I am very glad to be here and to meet you.”

World Champion fencer Ibtihaj Muhammed will make history this summer as the first American to wear the traditional Muslim hijab while competing at the Olympics

World Champion fencer Ibtihaj Muhammed will make history this summer as the first American to wear the traditional Muslim hijab while competing at the Olympics

3) Traditional dress. Wearing a hijab, or headscarf, is for many Muslim women a visible expression of the faith, piety or modesty. There have already been several cases brought to the EEOC (Employment Equal Opportunity Commission) from employers who felt this dress violated corporate dress codes, especially in customer-facing roles, and in most cases, the EEOC sides with the employee. One of the most visible cases was the clothing store Abercrombie and Fitch’s refusal to hire Samantha Elauf, a Muslim, because of her religious practice of wearing a hijab. (See EEOC press release about this case.)

Here is an excellent resource available from the EEOC which goes in more depth on some these issues and additional ones.

Overall, these are simple and reasonable “religious accommodations” as with working with other people of faith in the workplace. It makes good business sense to provide a little flexibility and respect to build a workplace climate where everyone feels included, can be themselves, and bring the very best of their talent to the job.

New Consultant Joining Total Engagement Consulting to Assist with Transgender Diversity

Elaine Martin is joining Total Engagement Consulting to assist with work in the transgender diversity area

Elaine Martin is joining Total Engagement Consulting to assist with work in the transgender diversity area

Over the past few years, there has been a tremendous growth in the business diversity field for a deeper understanding of transgender individuals and how to best support transgender employees in the workplace. I am very pleased to announce that Elaine Martin is joining the Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer team as a part-time consultant on call to assist my clients in this key area.

Ms. Martin frequently speaks on a variety of trans related topics to provide deeper understanding of and support for transgender people. Among them are:
• Transgender 101
• How to Gain Support from Your Spouse and Family
• Trans People … Everything you were afraid to know, but wanted to ask
• Transitioning in the Work Place (augmenting my deep expertise in HR policies and practices to support transgender employees)

Ms. Martin will be available to speak on these topics as well as customizations for your audience, as a solo consultant, as well as team teaching longer workshops with me. She will also be an ideal resource for your enterprise to provide 1-on-1 coaching to assist your employees in transitioning professionally in your workplace.

Ms. Martin believes that the most important step in activism is “showing up.” This is particularly true for transgender people because so few people have ever known or met a transgender person. Familiarity with people different from themselves is very often the key to understanding, respect and support.

With a BA in Psychology and an MBA in Finance, Ms. Martin has a robust professional resume which positions her as an ideal consultant in the workplace arena, including training of senior executive teams. In addition to owning and running her own businesses and being a commercial pilot, she worked in the banking industry as a senior vice president and executive vice president responsible for teams of up to 1,000 people. Positions included responsibility for all operations, IT, lending operations, corporate marketing, government relations, human resources, product development and more.

Within the community, Ms. Martin has served on numerous boards, including most recently as the Board Chair of Equality North Carolina from 2012 – 2014. She is now on the board of the Raleigh Business and Professional Network, which is an affiliate chapter of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Ms. Martin is Total Engagement Consulting’s second “consultant on call” team member, and can be contacted at Elaine@TotalEngagementConsulting.com. Elsa Maria Jimenez-Salgado (link to info about her) remains part of the Total Engagement Consulting team with a focus on providing bilingual consulting services including diversity training for clients requiring services in Spanish.

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