The EEOC Targets Onionheads

The EEOC has sued the United Health Programs of America for alleged religious discrimination.  The owners of the company developed a strategy, or as the EEOC puts it, a "belief system" that constitutes a religion.  The owners contend their strategy helps people address life's problems.  I am not an expert on the Onionhead life strategy.  But I did read some of the information on the organization's website, www.harnessinghappiness.org.  Onionhead happens to be the character that teaches life skills.  (Yes, it is a cartoon character in the shape of an onion.) 

The EEOC claims that the employees were required to tell one another, "I love you," burn candles and pray.  I'm not sure what praying would be done as I can't see any reference to any God on the website.  Perhaps the prayers were meditation -- which is not restricted to religion.  And thus, the interesting question -- When does a set of beliefs become religious in nature?  Would, for example, Covey's Seven Habits constitute a religion?  What about Dale Carnegie and his strategies for success in life? 

Frankly, I wouldn't want to work at United Health Programs of America.  But I'm not sure it's because of the owner's "religion" as much as it is about the owner's life philosophies.  I have my own strategies for a successful life.  Some of those strategies are based on religious belief.  Some are not. 

But as the world becomes more complex, and diverse, the issue of religion in the workplace is likely to arise more frequently.  Whether a set of beliefs is a religion is just one of those workplace questions.  Other issues we are likely to face will be an employee's right to engage in religious practices, and conflict between religious beliefs and other political rights.  It will take time, consideration and compassion to work through these issues. 

May God bless us all.  Oops.  Maybe I shouldn't have said that?