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When your religious beliefs conflict with work happy hour

In the past few decades, team building activities have become common in many workplaces in Wisconsin and across the United States. Often, managers invite employees to attend happy hour after work. Over a few drinks, coworkers talk business and pleasure. According to some experts, happy hours improve both workplace happiness and productivity

If your religious beliefs prevent you from consuming alcohol or being in a place where others drink, you may face a bit of a conundrum. After all, refusing to attend happy hour with your manager and colleagues may have negative consequences. Still, you likely have the law on your side. 

Religious discrimination 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prevents your employer from using your religious beliefs to discriminate against you. For this provision to apply, though, your manager must know about your beliefs. Therefore, you may want to tell your boss that your religious convictions prevent you from attending happy hour. 

Wisconsin law also prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace. To keep from running afoul of the law, your employer must reasonably accommodate your religious beliefs. Allowing you to opt out of happy hour is likely a reasonable accommodation. 

Retaliation 

Your employer may not retaliate against you because of your religious beliefs. Said another way, if you stand on your principles, you should not have to face consequences at the office. While some types of retaliation are easy to identify, others are more difficult. 

For example, your employer may tell you, “had you been at happy hour with the rest of the group, you would better understand the project.” Not giving you the information you need to do your job probably constitutes retaliation. 

If your religious convictions forbid you from drinking alcohol, attending a work-sponsored happy hour may be out of the question for you. You should not, however, have to worry about your career by opting out of drinks with coworkers. If you think you have been the victim of workplace discrimination or retaliation, you may need to act quickly to protect yourself.

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