The Challenges of Managing Diversity
The U.S. was built on the foundation of individual rights. It is, in part, because of the protections contained in The Bill of Rights that so many have sought the refuge of America from the birth of the nation up to the present times.
The protection of individual differences in the workplace, however, can from a practical standpoint at retail prove to be anything from a minor inconvenience to a real impediment to serving the needs of consumers.
In recent times, conflicts between individual conscience and/or expression and the running of a business appear to be on the rise.
Recently, a controversy heated up in the Twin Cities area when Muslim cashiers working at a SuperTarget refused to handle pork items at the checkout. According the Star Tribune, the cashiers would either ask another store employee to handle the meat or request the customer bag the item(s).
Since the story went public, Target has asked Muslim cashiers who have refused to handle pork to either wear gloves and maintain their current job or move to another area of the store – or, depending on staffing needs, perhaps to a different location altogether.
“We are confident that this is a reasonable solution for our guests and team members,” Target spokesperson Paula Thornton-Greear said in a statement from the company.
As others have had to do, Target is looking to find a balance between the individual rights of its workers and the legitimate expectation of service from its customers.
With the options offered to Muslim workers, Target’s policy is in line with other retailers selling pork.
“There are many jobs in the grocery store that do not involve handling pork,” said Vivian King, a spokesperson for Roundy’s.
Mohamed Muse, a Muslim who works at a SuperTarget in St. Louis Park, said the new policy makes sense. “If someone is trying to buy pork, you can’t just say, ‘Wait here,'” he said. “You can’t put a hold on the work system.”
Mr. Muse said the issue of whether or not he could handle pork was addressed when he first joined the company. A human resources worker asked if he objected and he told the person he did. “They said okay. So I work mostly with fruits and vegetables overnight. It was really no problem.”
This is not the first conflict at retail related to religious beliefs. Some pharmacists, it has been widely reported, have refused to fill prescriptions for Plan B and other birth control drugs because it was not condoned in the practice of their faith.
Discussion Questions: Does the increasing level of diversity in the workplace require a different or more comprehensive type of training for managers and employees in dealing with one another as well as customers with customs and beliefs that are unlike their own?