Employers attempt to balance work and religion

By Neal Learner | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

Aiming to catch more customers, Bank One Corp. recently opened its Phoenix supermarket branches on Sundays - one of the busiest grocery shopping days of the week. But when bank employees learned of the new shift, not all cheered. One teller refused to work the hours, telling his supervisors it violated his religious beliefs.

"They said everyone has to work at least some time on Sunday," recalls the employee, who asked not to be identified. "Their reasoning is that by allowing someone to be out on Sunday, that would show favoritism to that religion. I told them, 'OK, I'll either have to change to another branch office that isn't open on Sunday or find another job."

The employee's religion-versus-work dilemma highlights a growing challenge in the American workplace. Disputes over providing religious accommodations at work have increased - not only for Christians but also for America's increasingly diverse religious adherents. And the burden falls hardest on small businesses.

"It's a common situation, regardless of the size of the business or type of business, and regardless of whether it's 24/7 or 9-to-5," says Jeanne Goldberg, senior attorney adviser for the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC in fiscal year 2003 received 2,532 charges alleging religious discrimination - a 75 percent jump over the 1,449 complaints filed in 1993. By contrast, race-based charges, while more numerous, have declined somewhat over the 10-year period, with 28,526 charges filed in 2003 compared with 31,695 in 1993.

A typical religious accommodation charge involves an employee seeking to swap shifts with another employee to attend a Sabbath observance, explains Ms. Goldberg. "They've arranged the accommodation on their own, but the employer will not permit that voluntary swap," she says. "It's a very common type of claim."

For years, Christians have filed complaints about working on Sundays and Jews about Saturday shifts, says Peggy Mastroianni, EEOC's associate legal counsel. "Now the other kind of case we're seeing ... is Muslim employees who need to go to prayer on Friday. They may not need the entire day off, but it might be a two- to three-hour period in the middle of the day."

Making accommodations

Federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers' religious needs, unless it imposes an undue hardship on the company. Most cases that end up in court involve disputes over what constitutes an undue hardship, Goldberg says.

At the same time, employers are naturally cautious about making an exception for one individual. "We look at what the possible ramifications are for the whole workforce," says Ms. Mixon-Page, who is now manager of human resources for Missouri Consolidated Healthcare Plan in Jefferson, Mo. "You have to be careful about setting precedents."

Large employers usually have enough staff to make accommodations, she says. But for the small employer, it's a different story. "If everyone has a different religious affiliation, and each one comes with his own set of observances, then, from a staffing prospective, you could be in for a difficult time," she says.

Religious diversity trend

Some experts predict that workforce conflicts over religion will grow. "This is a problem that is going to get bigger and bigger because it's demographically driven," says Georgette Bennett, president of the New York-based Tanenbaum Center, which advises workplaces on religious diversity issues.

Changing immigration patterns are boosting the number of people from parts of the world with less familiar religious beliefs and practices, she says. For example, immigration from Asia represented 26 percent of the total in 2002 compared with just 9 percent in 1970. European immigration, meanwhile, dropped to 14 percent in 2002 from 62 percent in 1970. The workforce also is aging, she adds. The older people get, the more important religion becomes to them, Ms. Bennett says, citing research by national polling companies.

Despite these factors, only about 4 percent of firms have policies that specifically deal with religious accommodations, according to a recent Tanenbaum survey of human resource professionals. Like many companies, Bank One includes religion as one of many factors in a policy that prohibits discrimination or harassment of any kind, says Thomas Kelly, spokesman for the bank. Scheduling issues are handled case by case, he says.

After some back-and-forth between the Phoenix bank teller and his supervisors, the bank finally agreed to let him either swap shifts with a co-worker or transfer to another branch office. He opted for the latter, noting that he didn't want to force a colleague to do something he was opposed to himself. "I'm going to take a lateral move to get out of working on Sunday," he says. "It's not better, it's not worse. It's just inconvenient to have to change."


The Nursing Shortage - Opportunities In Health Care.

At 2.5 million strong, Nursing is the largest group of health care professionals in the United States. Labor statistics indicate however, that in the near future there will be a problem with the supply of registered nurses as a result of declining enrollments in nursing programs and aging of the nursing workforce. The demand for nurses will remain high, with hundreds of positions unfilled - strongly affecting health care organizations well into the next decade.

Interested in a career in Nursing? Read on.

What is Nursing?

Nursing has many definitions, but the essence of nursing is that nurses combine the art of caring with the science of health care. Nursing places its focus not only on a particular health problem, but on the whole patient and his or her response to treatment. Care of the patient and a firm base of scientific knowledge are indispensable elements.

What do Nurses do?

Nurses work in many different areas, but the common thread of nursing is the nursing process - the essential core of how a registered nurse delivers care.

This process involves 5 steps:

assessment: collecting and analyzing physical, psychological and sociocultural data about a patient;

diagnosis: making a judgment on the cause, condition and path of the illness;

planning: creating a care plan which sets specific treatment goals;

implementation: supervising or carrying out the actual treatment plan;

evaluation: continuous assessment of the plan.

How to Prepare for a Career in Nursing

Nursing is a rewarding but highly technical field. Nurses must know not only the health sciences, but also how to plan, organize, and educate patients and their families. Students who wish to prepare for a nursing career should give particular attention to math, biology, and chemistry; computer science; and the behavioral and social sciences.

Nursing Education

Registered Nurses must graduate from an accredited school of nursing. Nursing education includes study in nursing theory and techniques, the science and treatment of disease, and several specialty areas. It also includes hands-on clinical practice in hospitals or other settings.

The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is a four-year university-based degree. It is strongly recommended as the base for the full range of nursing practice and responsibilities, in the widest number of settings.

The Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is a two-year program which prepares individuals for a more defined range of practice settings and roles. It is usually offered through community colleges.

Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) have received further education, usually at the Master's level, in advanced roles, specialty areas or research.

Not all people enter nursing studies directly from high school. Today's students often enter nursing later in life, have degrees in other fields or are changing careers. Many can only attend college part-time. For this reason, many nursing schools offer joint degree or ladder programs, or credit for relevant experience. Flexible scheduling is also more common. Check with your nursing school for exact requirements.


Upon graduation, every nurse must pass a national examination to obtain a license to practice and use the title of R.N.; state Boards of Nursing administer these exams. Continuing education to maintain competency throughout the career is recommended, and required in some states.

Nursing Specialties

There is a wide variety of nursing specialty areas; you will certainly be able to find one to fit any interest you have. Examples include: surgery, emergency, pediatric, psychiatric, school, public health, nurse-midwives, and others. Note that some specialty areas require additional experience, study or certification.

Career Opportunities

Nurses are needed not only in hospitals, but in home health agencies, long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, managed care centers, and in community health. Educating patients & their families in preventive care is highly important. Demands for advanced practice nurses are growing in many areas; some APNs are opening their own practices.

Nurses have never been more important to health care than they are today. They must be well-educated, adaptable, and able to act as patient advocates. Nurses should be prepared for leadership roles in managing resources to promote better health care for their patients, whatever the location or setting.

Further Information

Contact: National Student Nurses Association: http://www.nsna.org/

What you need to know about Salary Negotiations

Find out what you're worth before the interview. A good way to find out the going rates for someone in your position would be to do a search on the major jobboards for similar positions and see what other employers are offering.

There are also dozens of WebSites now that list salary and compensation data, salary.com even allows you to get a Personal Salary Report that can tell you what you're worth in the city you live in.

Don't be the first to bring it up.
Never bring up pay issues during the first interview unless asked by the interviewer. The main goal of a first interview is to make them want to bring you back for a second interview. Making them want you allows you to negotiate more from strength later on in the process.

Clarify the employer's expectations of you
Buy knowing what the interviewer expects of you in the position you will have a much better understanding of what you will be doing, therefore giving you a much better handle on what types of compensation to seek. For example if the employer sees your
position leading to director down the road and you are interviewing for the manager level, you can ask for more salary up front, since you'll probably being doing the work of a director from the beginning.

What is it that you really want most?
Would you be willing to trade a $1000 in base or so for an extra week of paid vacation? Do you really want stock options and a 75-hour workweek or the comfort of 9-5 hours and 15 minute commute. Knowing what is most important to you in advance of an interview will help you along both the interview process and salary negotiating process.

Know how to respond to the question, "What are you making now?"
What you make now includes many different facets of compensation such as; base salary, bonus potential, paid vacations, tuition reimbursements, car allowances, differing health plan costs and much more. Do your homework!! Know what your true compensation is before the interview.

Address what you are leaving behind
Are you leaving a bonus on the table? What about 401k matches? Are they the same or do they differ? More often than not a company will make up these with a sign-on bonus, or guaranteed performance bonus of some sort or other provisions to "make you whole."

Always negotiate your exit clause
Depending on your level in the company you may be able to negotiate a severance package up front. While this may be hard for an individual contributor than someone in management, it is still a point to address. And yes it is hard to discuss you leaving the company before you have even started, so don't dwell on this point in the negotiation process.

Keep things pleasant
The best compensation negotiations are when it's a win-win for both parties, when each side feels they're getting what they want. The company gets a great new employee who will provide solutions to existing issues, and you get a new job where you can contribute and where you are compensated fairly and correctly. If you are working with a third party recruiter let them do the salary and compensation negotiations for you, as they can broach subjects for you that you can't, and can help keep the negotiations on a pleasant and even keel. After all you have to begin working with the employer come some Monday morning in the future.

What's your deal maker / deal breaker
Realize in most cases you can only go back with one-maybe two counter proposals. So know what your "deal maker" is. That one item that will make you say yes, that you have to have in order to work for this company.

Get it in writing
Typically known as an offer letter or letter of intent, most all companies will provide one if you ask. All this is a confirmation of the deal that the two parties have struck laying out all the points in writing so there are no disagreements down the road. The document should be signed by an officer of the company and include all the details: base salary, bonus potential, options, vacation, relocation package if any, etc.

Blacks Lose Better Jobs Faster as Middle-Class Work Drops

New York Times

Unemployment among blacks is rising at a faster pace than in any similar period since the mid-1970's, and the jobs lost have been mostly in manufacturing, where the pay for blacks has historically been higher than in many other fields.
Nearly 2.6 million jobs have disappeared over all during the last 28 months, which began with a brief recession that has faded into a weak recovery. Nearly 90 percent of those lost jobs were in manufacturing, according to government data, with blacks hit disproportionately harder than whites. At the same time, jobless black Americans have been unusually persistent about staying in the labor force.

Having landed millions of jobs in the booming 1990's, they have continued to look for new ones in the soft economy, and so are counted now as unemployed; if they gave up trying to find work, they would not be counted. These two phenomena help to explain why the black unemployment rate, though still not high by historic standards, is rising twice as fast as that of whites, and faster than in any downturn since the mid-1970's recession.

Low-wage workers and women who went from welfare to work in the 1990's have largely kept their jobs; factory breadwinners have borne the pain, men and women alike.

"The number of jobs and the types of jobs that have been lost have severely diminished the standing of many blacks in the middle class," said William Lucy, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. In Indianapolis, for example, Autoliv, a Swedish manufacturer of seat belts, is closing a plant and laying off 350 workers, more than 75 percent of them black. Many are young adults who were hired in the late 1990's when the unemployment rate in Indianapolis was only 2 percent and Autoliv, to recruit enough workers to expand production, hired young men without high school diplomas.

"They were taken from the street into decent-paying jobs; they were making $12 to $13 an hour," said Michael Barnes, director of an A.F.L.-C.I.O. training program that helps laid-off workers in Indiana search for new jobs. "These young men started families, dug in, took apartments, purchased vehicles. It was an up-from-the-street experience for them, and now they are being returned to their old environment."

It is not only the recently hired who are losing jobs. So are tens of thousands of textile workers in the South, many with long tenure, as production in the industry shifts to China and India.

These workers are mostly black men and women who were earning $11 an hour plus benefits in small towns where other jobs, if there are any, do not pay as well. "This is not like the cyclical downturns in the old days, when you got furloughed for a few weeks and then recalled," said Jared Bernstein, a senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute. "These jobs are gone, and that represents a potentially significant slide in living standards." Black employment in manufacturing, once concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast, is now spread across every state as companies have migrated to lower-wage towns and cities. With an increasing number of these companies migrating again, this time overseas in search of yet lower labor costs, the job loss in manufacturing has intensified.

For all the setbacks, black Americans have not diminished their presence in the labor force. During the late 1990's, the percentage of black Americans who were in the labor force that is, either held jobs or were actively looking for them and therefore counted as unemployed rose by two percentage points to more than 68 percent, the highest level on record. Significantly, in the subsequent downturn that high participation rate has held.

That means that the number of black people looking for jobs is higher now than in previous eras a statistic that some analyst see as a reason for optimism. "People are coming out of a favorable labor market," said William Spriggs, executive director of the National League for Opportunity and Equality. "They are still optimistic, and they are more skilled, which means they are more willing to continue to look for work."

Others see suffering in the same data. Not since the Depression has the nation's work force contracted for so many months after a recession began. "Reluctance may be part of the reason blacks are not leaving the labor force," Mr. Bernstein said, acknowledging Mr. Spriggs's point. "But you leave a lousy labor market because you can afford to do so, and in a jobless recovery that has persisted for so long, many blacks don't have the savings to make a go of it without a paycheck."


Playing the "Office Politics" Game

Do you believe that if you are good at what you do and work hard you will get ahead? Do you think making the boss look good is brownnosing? If so, you do not understand corporate politics. Like it or not, "being political" and knowing how to "play the game" are important skills that you must cultivate to get ahead.

Mark Williams, a health services technician in the United States Coast Guard (USCG), notes, "It is not enough to do a good job. Hard work alone does not lead to success. Lots of people think knowing your bosses and what they need and want is 'selling out.' I see it as being a team player and good networking. It is important to develop relationships with those in power and who are where you want to be. They can be good role models."

This attitude has helped Williams to become the first black person to win the leadership award for the Enlisted Person of the Year for the Northeast Region of the USCG -- and the only person to win it twice.

For many, "political" is a dirty word. In their book, Work Would Be Great if it Weren't for the People (Hyperion, $12.95), co-authors Ronna Lichtenburg and Gene Stone write, "All politics really boils down to is the play of human interactions at work that can make your job either easier or more difficult. Being a good office politician means that you know how to turn individual agendas into common goals."

Most people are clear about what they want their company to "give them." There are powerful economic forces today that encourage employers to gratify employees' needs. And there is clearly a labor shortage of competent professionals. Companies must now invest in keeping their employees satisfied. A key to developing political savvy in the office is presenting your needs in a way that appeals to the common goals of the company.

How do you determine the common goals of the company? "Always treat people above you as though they were your main client," detail Lichtenburg and Stone. "This involves recognizing strengths and weaknesses and helping bosses capitalize on strengths. Good sucking up requires work. You don't just throw compliments at everything in sight. Study your target."

You must be a bit of a sleuth to understand the political power structure of an organization. A good detective asks a lot of questions, knows how to establish rapport with members at all levels of an organization, and works to develop those relationships. By being a "good detective," you will better understand both the formal and informal structure of your organization. It will help you to determine where your boss and your department fit in the organization.

In your quest, don't neglect the importance of a broad-based skill set. "The most important question to ask yourself today is: How can I leverage my "intellectual capital" so that my skills are flexible and marketable in the global economy?" observes Jasmine Scott, former business consultant and trainer for Prudential.

Having these skills and consistently performing in a way that exceeds expectations will certainly get you noticed. But without political savvy, you won't get very far.

Sleuthing made easy

The answers to these questions will aid you in the quest to become politically savvy in the office:

  • Do you work in a department that's integral to the organization? Or are you in a losing camp? Can you work on getting placed in a better political position or be neutral enough to "not go down with the ship"?
  • Is your boss a team player? Does he travel in the "right circles"? (Does he have power to make decisions that will affect your goals?) With whom does he maintain both personal and professional relationships? "It is important to know how your boss is perceived in the organizational structure," says Phyllis White, clinical director of Business Health Services, a national provider of employee assistance programs.
  • Does the mission statement of the organization represent "the real goals of the organization"?
  • Who are the confidants of the people in power? Can you position yourself to network with them to "give you what you want"?



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