Case Studies: Faith-Based Employee Resource Groups
Coexistence is one of JLens’ six areas of focus for our corporate engagement. In researching religious accommodation in the workplace, we find that even in companies with inclusive cultures, the onus is still on employees of minority faiths to speak up about needing accommodations for days off, attire, prayer space, food, and more. One way a company can increase religious accommodation is by supporting faith-based or multifaith employee groups. These groups provide an opportunity for connection and support for employees of minority faiths, and also help develop company policies and best practices around religious accommodation.
Included below are some examples of successful faith-based employee groups, developed from JLens’ engagement with the approximately 300 companies in JLens’ Jewish Advocacy Strategy portfolio. Religious coexistence policies and practices have been key focuses in our recent engagement, leading to our identification of these leaders in the area of faith-based employee groups. These groups may meet in person or virtually, and choose to sponsor events centered around education and awareness, celebration of holidays, discussions of various issues from a faith perspective, and host events in partnership with other employee groups, exploring a shared identity or topic.
Texas Instruments has three separate groups, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian, and each hosts events specific to their religion. There are also events co-hosted by these ERGs and with other non faith-based ones as well. When a hostage crisis occurred at a synagogue in North Texas, the three ERGs came together to co-host Holocaust Remembrance Day which fell shortly after, focusing on raising awareness about the rise of antisemitism. Faith-based groups also partner with other non-faith-based ERGs to host events, such as when TI’s Black Employee Network partnered with the Christian Employee Network to host an event about the faith-based teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., drawing 200 participants.
PNC currently has a 400-person interfaith ERG founded in 2019 that meets virtually. This group creates a monthly religious holiday calendar for the company, and hosts events. One such event is a book club that meets to discuss topics regarding religious inclusion in the workplace highlighted from the book Interfaith Leadership by Eboo Patel. Another event PNC’s group has run is a monthly Lunch and Learn that highlights a different faith each month, and invites members of that identity to share about their faith and customs.
Equinix’s multi faith group has hosted numerous successful events, including a panel of women from various tech companies about Ramadan. This event discussed the meaning of the holiday, customs, panelists shared personal stories, and panelists discussed how other employees could support their Muslim colleagues during this time, and how the company might support employees (e.g. not scheduling events revolving around food, or providing a takeaway box for fasting employees). Equinix’s group conducted a similar event during the Jewish High Holidays, sharing the example that employees learned how to greet their Jewish colleagues during this time (e.g. employees learned not to wish their Jewish colleagues a “Happy Yom Kippur” as it is a day of atonement). This group has also been integral in developing a company calendar of holidays, and advocating for prayer/wellness spaces. Equinix’s group also plans to host an event in conjunction with its veterans group about chaplaincy, sharing stories from a retired Navy admiral and chaplain.
Target has four Faith Networks for Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim employees. These networks host a variety of different events that focus on both celebration and education. These events build awareness about religious practices and holidays by providing listening sessions and a chance for other employees to ask questions, and also celebrate holidays. Employees of different Faith Networks collaborate as well, sharing resources and insights. Members from each faith-based network consult with the company on its products geared towards holidays, ensuring that these are culturally appropriate. The four groups also come together as an Interfaith Council, developing a company holiday calendar, consulting on new policies like prayer spaces, and engaging in dialogue on various topics.
Clorox created an interfaith employee group in July 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The interfaith group hosts educational sessions, vigils, faith-specific events, and inter-ERG events. One such inter-ERG event was in collaboration with the CelebrAsia ERG for a Diwali card exchange. Educational sessions include Q&A-style panels in which employees of different faiths are interviewed about their backgrounds, traditions, and beliefs. The ERG also publishes a calendar with events and faith-based holidays monthly.
AT&T’s interfaith ERG, called Faith@Work, was launched in July 2021 and currently has 900 members. The group hosts educational events, teaching employees about different faiths and their beliefs, celebrations, as well as facts and myths. The group hosts events in which faith leaders speak to members about their faiths, and how their work and faith are related. Along with the faith-based ERGs at SAP and Qualtrics, AT&T’s Faith@Work sponsored a panel discussion featuring Jewish, Christian, and Hindu leaders from all three companies, moderated by a Muslim leader. Recently, the group ran an event attended by 8,000-10,000 people, an Asian heritage festival in conjunction with various Asian ERGs. Another successful event the group ran was about Ramadan, encouraging employees to ask questions. Faith@Work also works with the company’s DEI department to create an accurate and inclusive religious holiday calendar. When starting the group, Faith@Work leaders shared that they spoke with the LGBTQ employee group prior to launching to ensure that the group was run in a way that ensured LGBTQ inclusion. Now, these two groups plan to host events in conjunction during Pride month.
CMS has an interfaith ERG, established in January of 2022, centered around education. The group also has hosted an event centered around healing, and looks forward to hosting a faith festival which will include various faith-based celebrations occurring from September-December. Different faiths will host booths with customized decorations, food, and other key faith-based elements. CMS’s ERGs are promoted to employees during orientations. DEI awareness trainings (required for all employees) are covered at the beginning of every company meeting and highlight key things to be recognized in the month including faith-based holidays and are intended to promote inclusivity and diversity. The group has also created a company-wide calendar of religious holidays.
General Dynamics has a group called Faith & H.O.P.E. in Focus which currently has 500 registered members, and supports connecting with others of shared and different faiths, raising awareness, and developing company best practices. In 2022, the group facilitated conversations on Ramadan, Passover, and Easter, and also held an Interfaith Day of Prayer. For Holocaust Remembrance Day, General Dynamics employee Mark Getman, also a rabbi, shared stories and photos from a book written by his father, a Holocaust survivor.
Medtronic hosts a Christian, Jewish, and Muslim ERG, with chapters globally and domestically. In Minnesota, the Jewish ERG runs quarterly programming which is divided between holiday celebrations and other issues of interest to the Jewish community. The group celebrated Sukkot with a discussion of homelessness and Jewish values, and also received a presentation from ADL on antisemitism in the US. The group has also partnered with other ERGs, such as working with the Asian group to support its community after the murders of Asian women in Atlanta. The group also hosted a program about Israeli innovation, where a leader of one of the company’s Israel-based businesses led a discussion on Medtronic’s new Israeli born innovations like Mazor and PillCam.
Merck has an interfaith group with chapters throughout the world. This group has worked on religious accommodation in the workplace, development of religiously diverse talent, mapping quiet rooms across Merck offices, and works with cafeteria vendors in major sites to celebrate religious holidays through customized menus (such as a recent one for Rosh Hashana). The group runs a quarterly “My Faith” series that sheds light on a specific religion by inviting an expert in that field to speak. The group’s session on Judaism last May was attended by over 100 people. The group also hosted an educational event around antisemitism in the workplace. The group has also developed a multicultural holiday calendar that is posted on social channels for employees to download.