What do you do if an employee objects to your Pride Month celebrations? And what if that person objects, in writing, on the company intranet?

IKEA in Poland, had a case where an employee objected to an LGBTQ celebration and, according to IKEA: 

 "The employee actually used quotes from the Old Testament about death and blood in the context of what fate should meet homosexuals. Many employees concerned by this entry contacted our HR department."

The employee, identified as Tomasz K. said, "I was shaken up. I've been hired to sell furniture but I'm a Catholic and these aren't my values

Poland is a place without a lot of support for gay rights, and prominent politicians are backing Tomasz K. International values, they say are not Poland's values.

And that is something to consider as you take your business global. What works in your current country may not work in your new country. And what you assume to be the case, may not be.

For instance, a UK court just ruled that a university, which expelled a student for expressing his opposition to homosexual behavior, should be reinstated, writing that the University

"wrongly confused the expression of religious views with the notion of discrimination. The mere expression of views on theological grounds (e.g. that 'homosexuality is a sin') does not necessarily connote that the person expressing such views will discriminate on such grounds."

Many countries around the world find homosexual behavior to be punishable by law. Would you change your business' core values to operate in these countries, or would you stay out? Many companies speak loudly about gay rights while in the US and Europe but do a pretty penny worth of business in these countries. 

Even IKEA has stores in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both of which outlaw homosexual behavior. I suspect (but don't know for sure) that IKEA has different rules in these countries or they would not be allowed to operate.

What would happen in the United States? Would the sharing of scriptures on a company website be the cause for firing?

The United States, under Title VII, protects religious freedom and doesn't clearly protect sexual orientation. (There are currently 3 cases dealing with this before the Supreme Court). So, the answer is, you'd most likely have to make some accommodation, but your employees don't get free reign. Employment attorney, Jon Hyman said, in response to my question:

"This is such a tough issue. Combating freedoms - religious liberty vs LGBTQ rights. That said, I have never understood our workplace civil rights laws (which include "religion" as a protected class) to protect the right of an employee to proselytize. Employees have the right to their religion and to practice it, but not to force it upon others. So, for example, if an employee has a religious objection to LGBTQ issues, that employee /may/ be entitled to an unpaid day off to protest at the Gay Pride Parade (provided it does not impose an undue hardship on the employer, and further provided the employer is not discriminating by denying that request while granting other requests for unpaid time off), but is not entitled to proselytize by preaching anti-LGBTQ messages at work, or posting scripture, or trying to convert an LGBTQ employee, etc."

You can certainly have a non-proselyting rule at work, but couldn't, and shouldn't, force an employee to participate in LGBTQ support activities.

I don't know how this will play out in Poland, but I do know that you should make clear policies and double check with your employment attorney. And don't assume that your corporate policies can easily go global.

Published on: Jul 8, 2019
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