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Religious Respect: Ask Noah

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Q: I was born and raised in a very religious household. While I still hold fast to the values that brought, I'm also modern in my approach to religion.

However, there are certain religious traditions I keep, which I feel my work atmosphere is less than amenable towards. I've hinted at my concerns to my boss. He didn't really respond. Shall I speak candidly about my upset? I'm not sure how to advocate for myself here. Please help.

A: You're speaking about a common conflict experienced by many a worker between religious practices and employment obligations.

I've no idea what your religious traditions are or how you go about practicing them. This is not mine nor your boss' business!

However, it does matter what you are requesting from your employer regarding the keeping of "certain religious traditions."

Before confronting your boss, ask yourself if the request you're making to more freely practice religious traditions might cause undo stress to your work life? Is your request in line with what any reasonable person of faith would require?

Consider these questions:
  1. Are you requesting to take time off from work to observe a holiday(s)? Is this request a day, a week, a month? Do you need time off during the workday each day?
  2. Was this pre-determined before you were hired? Are you just now bringing up this matter?
  3. Is this a wardrobe issue? In order to be a practitioner does your particular faith involve wearing specific clothing? Have you felt discriminated for wearing these garments?

The Extreme Scenario:
  • Are you proselytizing to co-workers on your religious beliefs during office hours, i.e. passing out pamphlets, holding impromptu sermons?
  • Are you using/expecting to use company equipment or supplies to print copies of edicts?

In fulfilling religious duties and employment obligations simultaneously, one must often come to a compromise.

It's entirely normal to feel like the odd man out when your experiences aren't commonplace to your environment. Perhaps your feelings are a defense, stemming from a preemptive need to protect yourself and the very personal values you hold.

If you're feeling restricted at work for any reason whatsoever, there is absolutely nothing wrong with stating that to your boss.

Your religious beliefs must be respected. No question about that. If you are being -- or merely feel you're being -- marginalized and disrespected, Human Resources must be contacted immediately.

It's your job to figure out into which category your request falls.

Questions and comments can be sent to ASK NOAH at

Have a profitable and peaceful week,

Noah Kass is a psychotherapist specializing in addiction, relationship issues and work stressors. He has been Clinical Director at The Dunes: East Hampton and Realization Center in Union Square. Mr. Kass was a frequent guest on MSNBC's "The Dylan Ratigan Show," featured in a segment called "Kass' Couch" and regularly blogs for The Huffington Post.

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