Religion & employment

My niece recently quit her job at a thrift store. She told me they made her participate in a prayer circle before her shift. She was required to participate. She ended up quitting, because of it. The thrift shop claims to use resources to proselytize to prison inmates. I’m trying to determine if it’s legal to force her to pray at work?

Welcome to Atheist Republic Aloner.

You aren’t alone in here, you are in friendly (but sometimes tough) company. Don’t worry about the toughness, a quick belly rub has them docile. :wink:

Unfortunately, I suspect I may not be much help since I am a Canadian. It would be of assistance if you stated what nation you are from, so we can have a better understanding on which laws apply.

Sorry to hear about your niece, that sucks.

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Hi David, I’m in the U.S. (Pennsylvania)
My niece(21)was discussing this in front of my Mom, who is a devout Lutheran, who said, “what’s wrong with that?” My response, “A LOT!” I was almost certain it was a violation law to require someone to pray at work. I’m not certain since they might be sheltered under charity/religious shop laws.
My point was even if she wanted to pray, requiring it, is discrimination.
She was paying federal taxes on her earnings if that makes a difference.

From my perspective, the biggest problem is that she quit.

IMO she should have politely abstained, then documented anything that happened.


I said that, too, that she should have refused & let them fire her, or pretended to comply & recorded it.
The funny part about it, it’s called, The Jubilee Shop.

It’s always easy in hindsight.

Tends to be a lot a harder standing up for one’s rights at the time.

Last time I did it, I was standing up for the rights of one of my staff to complain. She had lodged a formal complaint about a nude photo being used to advertise staff happy hour. Not the way I would have approached the problem, but it was her right. The manager was livid because he was a sexist cunt with the empathy of a house plant…


Agreed. She isn’t the type of person to say anything, she’s very shy, so while I was irate about it, my Mom was condoning it & she sat in the middle trying to mediate. I try very hard not to put anyone in that position, especially since it took me so long to stand up for my non-belief in the face of my Mom’s “absolute faith.”
It ended with me saying i don’t believe Hell is real, while my Mom yelled, “yes it certainly is,” like she’s privy to information I haven’t accessed yet. We’re in a very religious area, so I’m probably the only one who my niece could commiserate with. I’ll speak to her alone next time I see her.

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You might find this link useful for when any future workplace issues pop up or in discussions with your mother.
Workplace Fairness in Pennsylvania
From a quick glance, it seems that the1st Amendment is upheld nationally but then it all gets muddy at state levels where certain conditions apply and then like for everything and everywhere else, if the employer really wants employees to be of a certain ilk, or be compliant to the point they join in those one-sided conversations with imaginary pals they can discretely work out ways and means to get just what they want and avoid legal hassles for discrimination.

And welcome to the Atheist Republic.

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Not sure it could be considered a reasonable request tbh.

My sympathies by the way, that would really boil my piss if an employer tried that on me.

“Stick your fucking job, up your fucking arse.”

I may get this laminated on a piece of card…:face_with_raised_eyebrow: just in case…

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Hi :slight_smile: . The Freedom From Religion Foundation might be able to at least give you some information, or maybe the ACLU. Both have contact information on their websites.
I can’t say I’m particularly hopeful that she can’t be forced to attend the employee “meeting”. No one can really make you pray, but they might be able to insist you stand silent while others do. Not sure. I know that in the opposite direction the right of individuals to pray at work is pretty well established. I’d love to hear any updates.


What country are you in? Unfortunately, your sister quit. They did not “force her.” Your choice of words is very poor.

To have any sort of case at all, she should have remained. She should have documented any threats of coercion she received. And finally, she should have sued their asses based on evidence, not on inane assertions.

You can not even validate the actual reason she was fired. All you have is second hand knowledge based on your niece’s claim.

Tell her to come to you first next time and begin documenting.


As I understand it, no employer can force an employee to pray and neither by law can they punish any employee by sacking or other discriminatory means. But a determined employer can manipulate events and stipulate other requirements of their business to rid themselves of unwanted staff without breaking laws. I’ve witnessed it done and been subject to such pressures myself.

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I’m in the U.S.
It was my niece that quit, not my sister.
I never said she was fired, I said she quit.
You can’t even keep what I’ve stated straight, as far as poor word choice is concerned.
I’ve already said that she’s young & shy, so not the type to speak up.
By force I meant required.
As far as secondhand information, that is correct, I only know what she told me, I wasn’t there.
I was looking for knowledge about whether it was legal in a religious based business to REQUIRE somebody to pray aloud at the start of her shift.
Thank you for your input though, I know how not to approach the situation when she comes to me again.

@Aloner I truly feel for your niece, and everyone in your family.

But you can help her, in dealing with her deficiencies. You can help her learn skills and tools required to deal with such scenarios, such as documenting everythign that happens, refraining from quick decisions, and possibly taking a course on assertiveness.

IMO the ship has sailed on her past job and any possible actions. But you can help prepare her for the future, make her stronger.

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I will. The biggest problem is that she is surrounded by theists except for me, so while I can explain that it is not legal, my biggest hurdle is that it’s not right either. If they had asked her to wear a hijab, sh*t would have hit the fan, but because it was Christianity they are pushing, that’s perfectly fine.
I realize the ship has sailed for a court case, my goal was to educate for next time, but I need to be educated in order to do that, hence my question.
While she’s my niece, she’s not my daughter. My son is an Atheist.
With her, I have to tread more carefully or I lose access to her completely.

Thank you for your concern & guidance.

Where I live it is even simpler. While there can be serious repercussions for firing someone for the wrong reason, there are no repercussions for firing someone for NO REASON.

Which of course means you can fire someone for being a minority, atheist, woman, gay, etc; without repercussions, so long as you don’t actually write down the reason!

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In the U.S. I think if they fire you without cause, you’re eligible for unemployment. It varies by state, but you have to have been employed for at least 90 days.
Most places don’t want to pay out unemployment, so they use insubordination, which can be used for an umbrella of reasons & if that’s the case, they don’t have to pay you if they fire.

…can you explain in more detail. Do businesses have the option to pay into “unemployment”? In Canada :canada: all businesses pay (only the self-employed can opt out). Getting EI benefits isn’t dependent on a business “paying”, but there are standards for what is considered “unemployment” (leaving with reason vs leaving without reason to collect ei)

Mind you I’m still shocked that there is no paid maternity. We have a year. Moms or dads can take it and those that adopt.

They have all sorts of reasons they give that can stop them from having to pay unemployment if they claim insubordination.
They can fire you for any reason, but say you’re off sick for 3 days & don’t have a doctor’s note, that can be considered insubordination.
It might be different, because of Covid right now, but they can fire you for a number of reasons under insubordination & not pay out unemployment (the employer doesn’t pay out unemployment, but they must approve it) also for all the employees that are unemployed they have to pay a higher tax depending on that number.
If they don’t approve it, you can appeal, but I’m getting into the weeds a bit.
Some states, like Florida, designed their system to make the process so difficult, you give up trying.
The laws are different in each state, I’m in PA, so I can’t speak for all of the U.S., but they don’t make it easy.
Enter Unions.

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