Muslim job applicants apparently experience more discrimination if they are open about their religious identification

New research by University of Connecticut (UConn) sociologists apparently shows discrimination against Muslim job applicants in two regions of the United States. The study also shows employers are less likely to respond to an application if a resume includes content which shows membership in a faith group, with those who are Muslims experiencing the most bias by possible employers.

The UConn study has important findings for human resources and legal professionals in companies that legally need to prevent discrimination in the workplace.

Michael Wallace, a UConn professor of sociology who worked on the study, pointed out the research “taps discrimination at the ‘first contact’ stage of the employment process; that is, at the moment where a prospective employee applies for a job that is advertised by an employer,” according to a statement he made to InsideCounsel.

“By its very nature, the discrimination we are finding flies under the radar in most hiring processes,” he explained. “But it is very real and impactful nonetheless. Also, our findings are aggregate findings which occur across several hundred employers, it would be difficult to charge any single employer who did not respond to a particular resume with employment discrimination.” He adds that the study points to religious discrimination which could be seen in other functions of the workplace, beyond processing job applications, such as “prospects for promotion or getting a raise. Such instances may rise to the level that individual employment discrimination based on religion could be alleged,” Wallace said. “This may be the tip of the iceberg and may signal more serious issues of religious discrimination throughout the organization.”

In coming up with recommendations for corporations, Wallace suggested that employees should be made aware of the situation and they should take “proactive steps to guarantee fair treatment of all applicants regardless of religious affiliation…. This would be especially important for employees who are on the front lines of the hiring process or who have responsibility for other key decisions that could affect the careers of their employees.”

When it comes to job applications, Wallace said applicants who express religious preferences in job applications should realize it could lead to “negative consequences.”

The new study comes as the number of complaints of religious discrimination has increased, as evidenced by the number of U.S. lawsuits and charges, InsideCounselreported. Between 1992 and 2010, the number of complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging religious discrimination increased from 1,388 to 3,790.

As part of their study, the researchers submitted resumes for four fictional recent college graduates to a popular job-listing website. Each resume included a religious preference – Catholic, evangelical Christian, atheist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, Wallonian [a fictional faith], or no religious affiliation, so there was a control group for the study.

The religious affiliation was made through extracurricular activities, such as being an officer in the “Muslim Student Group” or the “Campus Jewish Association.”

In a study of New England job applications, applicants listing religious identification got 19 percent fewer contacts from possible employers than the applicants from the non-religious control group. In addition, Muslims got 32 percent fewer e-mails and 48 percent fewer phone calls than applicants from the control group. In other words, “Just by adding the word ‘Muslim’ to an application, its chances of receiving an employer contact were reduced by between a third and almost half,” Bradley Wright, another UConn sociology professor, said in a statement from the university.

When the researchers sent out applications for jobs in the South, religious resumes received 29 percent fewer e-mails and 33 percent fewer phone calls than the control-group resumes. Muslim applications got 38 percent fewer e-mails and 54 percent fewer phone calls than the non-religious control group, according to the study.


Further reading:

The EEOC offers guidance on religious garb and grooming in the workplace

Compliance: Religious discrimination — It’s on the EEOC’s radar

Labor: Separation of church and work