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Would I be at risk of discrimination by asking employees to remove RakshaBandham bands?


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PolystarMark

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 07:49 AM

Has anybody got any thoughts that the British company 2 sisters were fined for discrimination after sacking an employee for refusing to remove a silver crucifix with 30 links.

I have been told that the BRC committee have sat down with the leaders of all world religions and come to the conclusion that only wedding bands and wedding rings are acceptable.

In my own company staff regularly wear RakshaBandham bands. 

Would I be putting us at risk of discrimination charges by asking them to remove them? 

Currently the wearing of RakshaBandham bands is covered by risk assessment.

thanks

Mark   



Marloes

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 08:31 AM

It depends on your company rules and reinforcements. From what I have read other employee's (with the same risk level) would wear company issued lanyards around their necks. So why is it okay to wear a keycord/lanyard but not a (christian) necklace?

They also fired him on the spot for ''disobeying orders''. Which usually doens't really hold up in court.

If your company has clear risk-based regulations regarding jewerly, enforced them equally and without ambiguity than you should be able to enforce a no jewerely policy. If you ever find yourself in a similar discussion with an employee, try to mitigate the problem in other ways that satisfy both. Put your solution in writing so that both can fall back on it. Always involve HR/Legal to see if your actions are legal. I would also highly suggest having a no jewelery clause in your contracts so that all new employee's are aware of the standpoint before they decide to join the company. 
 



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Evans X.

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 08:37 AM

Greetings,

 

Although I am in favor of allowing religious tokens, since it falls heavily into food defense and food safety culture, I believe that they both were wrong in this case. The reason I am in favor, in my opinion, is that if you allow something of great spiritual importance to your employees then you cultivate a positive attitude towards the afore mentioned topics, especially if you have diversity. That being said it is up to the company-employee to find common ground were food safety is ensured.

 

So in this case the company is wrong for not proposing possible solutions than simply forbidding something (use of other material like leather or simpler design or regular check-outs for intact or being worn in a way that if the links break they won't get out of the uniform or put it in a case and carry it on-person during work hours, honestly there are so many ways to address it). The employee is also wrong for not understanding the hazard it posed and on his part try to propose an alternative than hands-down denying to comply.

Also since I don't know the particulars, could the company have allowed something similar to personnel with different beliefs and not this employee? Hence the discrimination???

 

The RakshaBandham bands are very ellaborate with gems, stones, threads etc, so they can pose a high risk. Aren't they though worn as a ritual on the last day of the Hindu lunar calendar, so not all year round?? Maybe find a solution there? Not familiar with Hindu religion though.

 

Regards!



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Scampi

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 12:13 PM

Ultimately, this depends on the legal status of the country you are operating in, not the rules that you make

 

 

Lots of countries could/would force the manufacturers hand in this scenario  (I'm assuming other things were at play in this particular case)

 

Best to get legal counsel for existing hires, but agree the policy should be signed by all new hires to prevent issues later

 

As usual, having read the article here https://www.walesonl...fusing-24229292  there were other factors involved including having upset the direct manager which in turn appears to have become a bit of a witch hunt

 

Had the company handled the situation appropriately, the employee would probably still be working there, with the jewelry on


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Posted 15 June 2022 - 12:18 PM

We've already discussed similar matters on this forum. The first and most important rule - food safety, nothing more. If this upsets an employee, this person always has an option to find another job allowing them to wear whatever they want without compromising their religious feelings.



MOURADTALBI

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 12:42 PM

Yeah, food  safety  is  first,It's  rule  N°1

Never allow  any thing  that  can  compromise food safety.



Rick Reyes

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 01:24 PM

Good morning PolystarMark, I understand your concerns with this issue and the sensitivity to the issues but again at the end of the day we have a higher responsibility. 

  1.  Every employers number one responsibility is employee safety, even though we have some employees that may work in areas that are not in Zone-1 or Zone-2, if these employees work around even one piece of moving equipment they are at risk of injury or even death (strangulation from a religious article becoming entangled in moving equipment). I know this seems dramatic but I have been in the industry for 39 years and the horror stories from peers over the years, I have always worked at companies that had strict policies against any jewelry whether religious or otherwise.
  2. Food Safety is always right behind employee safety. It is our legal and moral obligation to ensure that we protect our customers from both physical contamination as well as microbiological contamination which also can cause physical harm and death from bacterial contamination.
  3. Brand protection, while being called out on social media is definitely a concern these days the bigger picture is that we have solid reasoning that can be defended in court and the court of public opinion.

In this era where every group feels that they need to be catered to we need to remember that if we go down that road for one group the flood gates will be flung wide open and then we wind up with a policy that is impossible to manage.



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Scampi

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 01:29 PM

We've already discussed similar matters on this forum. The first and most important rule - food safety, nothing more. If this upsets an employee, this person always has an option to find another job allowing them to wear whatever they want without compromising their religious feelings.

This has NEVER been challenged in Canada so that remains to be seen

 

The charter of rights and freedoms would protect them in most cases---just think of the push back Quebec has received of late with the removal of religious symbols for public sector employees?  That did not go to plan

 

Analytical framework

The Supreme Court has adopted the following test for determining whether there has been an infringement of section 2(a) (Hutterian Brethren, supra at paragraph 32; Amselem, supra at paragraphs 56-57; Multani, supra at paragraph 34; Law Society of British Columbia v. Trinity Western Universitysupra at paragraph 63):

An infringement of section 2(a) of the Charter will be made out where:

  1. the claimant sincerely believes in a belief or practice that has a nexus with religion; and
  2. the impugned measure interferes with the claimant’s ability to act in accordance with his or her religious beliefs in a manner that is more than trivial or insubstantial.

 

The underlined section is what would be the legal case here

Many very large corporations in Canada have added prayer rooms etc to provide practicing employees space to pray while at work----it would be very difficult for a supreme court to side with the employer when concessions have already been made

 

I agree that food safety is paramount FOR US, but other employees may feel very differently


Edited by Scampi, 15 June 2022 - 01:41 PM.

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TylerJones

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 02:15 PM

Agree with Rick Reyes- employee safety is above food safety as an employer. If your employees cannot work in a safe manner the food safety point is mute. Every manufacturing plant I have been in either has some sort of conveyor, sealer, bander, pallet wrapper, some kind of machine that would not stop if a necklace was caught in it. Heck I don't even allow hooded sweatshirts to be worn unless the pull strings are removed. 


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Posted 15 June 2022 - 03:23 PM

Around machinery, jewelry is a catch and safety hazard.
Around food, jewelry is a microbial hazard.

No matter the religious or personal significance, it has NO business in food manufacturing. We only allow medical alert necklaces if the employee provides a Doctor's note. No has taken us up on that.


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Miss Frankie

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 03:59 PM

The only thing we allow is first-alert necklace, which must be kept tucked inside their shirt.



Brothbro

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Posted 15 June 2022 - 04:23 PM

Reading the article the Scampi posted, it sounds like the company initially told the employee they would perform a risk assessment to create a final ruling on whether the necklace was allowed? But it seems the risk assessment was never done, and the employee was forced to remove the neckless. From the employee's perspective this would seem like an unfair, arbitrary decision. Perhaps if the company had completed the risk assessment to show that the necklace does indeed pose a significant food/worker safety risk, they would be standing on firmer ground. I completely agree that the necklace should be removed, but navigating these intersections between food safety, religious freedom, and freedom of expression become quite complicated legally.

 

PolyStarMark, you should take a look at your own company's culture and assess whether imposing a rule such as this would garner strong pushback from your staff. I think it would be advisable to seek legal counsel ahead of coming down harshly on this rule. I agree that no other jewelry besides a plain wedding band should be allowed, but considering the possible sensitivity of the issue I think some consultation fees would be warranted.



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Posted 15 June 2022 - 07:44 PM

"I have been told that the BRC committee have sat down with the leaders of all world religions and come to the conclusion that only wedding bands and wedding rings are acceptable."

 

Really?

 

There are hundreds of "religions" on earth, maybe even thousands.

 

I have seen what happens when a necklace gets caught in a food processng machine, because it was not worn inside their uniform, but outside.

 

Common sense tells me - all externals (rings, necklaces, etc. etc are no-gos into a facility.

 

If a court ever questioned - I'd have pictures of what has happened to people that did not comply with the GMPs.

 

I have seen my share of bad stuff in food facilities - watching someone's necklace pull the person's head down and almost under a cutting blade (that would have cut their head off) was enough for me to stop an entire inspection one day, let alone seeing what happened to someone that had a ring on in another factory.


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beautiophile

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 01:53 AM

"I have been told that the BRC committee have sat down with the leaders of all world religions and come to the conclusion that only wedding bands and wedding rings are acceptable."

 

Really?

 

 

Their standards say PLAIN wedding rings/bands are allowed. And an interpretation guideline clarifies:

 

Only plain wedding rings/wristbands (i.e. without any stones that may fall out) or continuous-loop sleeper earrings (hoops) are permitted to be worn. The reason sleeper earrings are permitted is because there is much less chance of the earring falling out and contaminating. Where religious reasons prevent the removal of an item of jewellery it must be covered and the site must complete a risk assessment to confirm how this will be achieved (e.g. by being totally cover either by wearer's normal clothing or by overalls).


Edited by beautiophile, 16 June 2022 - 01:54 AM.


Evans X.

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Posted 16 June 2022 - 08:13 AM

Sorry but I think the whole meaning of the post was lost! None puts employee and food safety above anything else, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do it, as Scampi said in post #4 and beautiophile quoted in post #13.

 

It seems that company did it the wrong way and when you do it like that then you can throw away your food defense assessment and the food culture cultivation programs you have designed. What if the employee complied and a few days later threw an odorless/colorless cleaning chemical in a batch??? Cause that is also a real case that happened 7 months ago in a company (for a similar reason - different points of view and enforcing a "just because I can" solution).

 

This isn't inquisition. That's why standards and legislation etc have mentioned guidelines upon which you can follow up and build your policy and appropriate measures than downright forbidding things just because something you haven't forseen came up one day or even you haven't written it down and it is just verbally communicated. Rules apply both sides in these delicate cases and you better be well prepared cause food safety isn't as simple as it used to be in the 90's. It is interconnected with many other key processes/procedures and the more diversity that comes in play the more you need to take into account what will happen when you push back on something in the wrong way.

 

Regards!



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