Monday, October 31, 2011

Hot Topic: Workplace Tebowing

[Tongue firmly planted in cheek folks. A little Monday lunchbreak fun. Happy Halloween!]

It started sometime last week. My phone has been ringing off the hook ever since. Anxious employers are desperate to find somebody... anybody... who can help them combat the latest employment law risk. Yup, you guessed it: Tebowing.

Questions abound:

What is Tebowing?
I think a quick visit to will clue you in. It means, "to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different."

Sounds religious… Can I ban Tebowing at work, or will that lead to religious discrimination claims?
If the employee is actually praying, then it should just be treated like workplace prayer. Tebowing, however, is done as an homage… or perhaps mockery… of Tim Tebow. Therefore, it is not religious activity and prohibiting it shouldn’t trigger any discrimination litigation risks - except, of course, if the employee has sincerely held religious beliefs about Tim Tebow. Unless you work at ESPN, this shouldn’t be an issue. If you do work at ESPN, you should probably make a good faith effort to engage the employee in the interactive process regarding possible accommodations.

Must I ban Tebowing at work?
For the sake of humanity, and all that is good in the world, YES! Looking for a legal justification? Meh, maybe claim it’s perceived as mocking prayer and Tebow’s Christianity and therefore you are banning Tebowing as part of your religious harassment policy. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Can I include a ban on Tebowing in my social media policy?
Yes, but be careful! A blanket ban would likely be viewed as overly broad by the NLRB. A prudent employer would include a disclaimer stating that Tebowing is allowed when done as concerted activity in opposition to workplace conditions or labor negotiations.

Disclaimer: This should not be construed as legal advice. If you have Tebowing issues in your workplace, I urge you to contact an attorney. As Tebowing issues are often complex, you may wish to consult with an attorney who has experience with Tebowing issues.

Image: Underlying image comes from here.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.

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