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office gossip: religion in the workplace

There have been enough allusions about the fact that I’m a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, for folks to be picking up on that now. A conversation I had with an old co-worker last night illuminates why I feel so strongly about religious freedom in the workplace. Freedom for and freedom from.

At my last job, I worked a 12-hr swing shift:

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
        MUT-D   N
N N     MUT-D D  
D   N N N    
  D D D D  

[D=day; N=night; MUT-D=make up time-day]

Because I was unaware of the shift at the time I accepted the job [and the fact that it required work on Sabbath], I was surprised when they reviewed the schedule with us during our second week of training. I spoke to someone in HR and after speaking with my manager’s manager (and her manager), and also bringing in a letter from my pastor, we worked out the above schedule.

What I found out last night, from talking with my friend, is that apparently, news of my schedule arrangement reached far and wide across the site. [at its peak, while I was there, there were ~14k people employed there. I left when there were ~11k] Discussion of my “preferential treatment” continues there now, even though I will have been gone from there for 3 years next month.

In my experiences working make-up time, I worked on other shifts – for other supervisors. And met with considerable opposition, sometimes. If it weren’t for my own supervisor, who continually stuck up for me in staff meetings, I would’ve left the site with a long list of black marks against my name.

A couple of months before I left, a co-worker told me that he’d heard some talk from another area [from people that I didn’t know (and didn’t know me)] about me and my schedule. Implications were that somehow, I was reaping benefits at the expense of the company. But the indignation wasn’t coming from folks who felt the company was being taken advantage of – it was coming from people who wanted to be off on Sundays, but hadn’t taken the stand in the beginning. Instead of pursuing their own desires to get Sunday off, though, they’re still harpooning me. 3 years later.

Comments have demonstrated that because the nature of my schedule wasn’t widely publicized, great misconceptions were born. As in a game of ‘telephone’ the truth may have gone in at the beginning, but something wildly twisted comes out at the end, and discussion of how I was able to not work weekends at all, and still get paid [without using vacation time] appeared. Nevermind the fact that the speculation couldn’t be further from the truth.

Most of this I actually find funny – just because I’m not working there anymore, and I wasn’t aware of all this while I was. Especially the fact that people will still bring up comments to my coworker, the latest being a question of whether i was actually attending church every Sabbath.

Because they didn’t actually work with me, they didn’t know that once a month I was getting up on Sabbath morning, going to church, coming home to eat with my family, and going in to work when the sun set. In winter, I’d get very little sleep, cuz I’d have to be to work at 6pm. In summer, I might get more sleep, but I’d go in at 9pm-work til 9am, and then be back at 6pm for the next shift.

I dealt with a couple supervisors who told lies about me for whatever reason – whether it was my scheduling, or something else – but thankfully, I made it through. Five years. And mostly, I just remember the good times. [I guess that’s why I could laugh last night, at the outrageous ideas some people still harbor about me.]

I wanted so much, though, to be a good example. I fear that the twisted vision some people have held on to may color their impression of the next Adventist they meet. I hope not. Thankfully, it hadn’t been held against me, that the previous Adventist that worked there had no problem with working on the Sabbath.

It’s all about your conscience. I will not work on Sabbath. Period. It’s not an option – not a temptation. If you need some help, I’ll help you out – but certainly, going to my job is a horse of another color. And even though I know it doesn’t matter to those who are most interested in discrediting me, I would like to state for the record, that [barring situations of travel] I can only recall missing church 2 or 3 times in my life. [yes-in. my. life.] (Additionally, situations of travel mean that I was actually traveling somewhere on Sabbath. Being in another city/country has not barred me from going to church, and I normally find a church wherever I go).

At my current job, my boss is a Muslim and she is super-sensitive to issues of religious freedom, because of her own experience. [Her observance of Ramadan is not really supported by our company, and it kinda sux they way they approach that.] Thankfully, I’m in a situation where people understand religious conviction, and don’t feel victimized for their lack of it (if that is indeed the case).

Guess all of this was just on my mind, cuz of the convo I had last night. Now that it’s off my chest, we can move on.


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