Group of Muslim women workingEtiquette experts suggest two things polite people never do is discuss politics and religion. Studies by the University of Connecticut emphasize not discussing religion when it comes to job applications in New England and the South.

According to a Hartford Courant article, “If you’re trying to get a job, it may be better not to disclose your religious preferences, especially if you’re Muslim. That’s the conclusion that could be drawn from two studies done by University of Connecticut researchers that show that employers are less likely to respond to job applications if a resume contains a reference to membership in a religious group.”

As the university reports on its website, “Sara Korvel has a lot to offer prospective employers: a recent graduate of a major university, she made the dean’s list in seven of eight semesters and belongs to the Phi Beta Kappa honors society. Fluent in four languages, she landed prestigious internships at an international bank and a state public broadcaster, and held down a job as a Starbucks shift manager for most of her college career. Sara has one significant factor working against her as she searches for her first post-college job, though: she’s a Muslim.”

“We have sort of a privatized view of religion,” UConn Sociology Professor, Michael Wallace, said of the study results in the Courant article. “It’s perfectly OK to have private religious beliefs and worship as you please, but as for bringing that into the workplace as part of an overt expression of your identity, that can cut against you a little bit.”

The university research finds the number of complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging discrimination against Muslim job applicants has almost tripled in less than 20 years. In 1992 there were 1388 complaints. In 2010 the number had grown to 3790. Wallace said this doesn’t necessarily mean that discrimination has increased, but it does signal increasing public awareness of the problem.

Sara Korvel who is mentioned above, is a fictional college graduate. She was created as part of Wallace’s research that was conducted along with Bradley Wright, an associate professor in the sociology department. The professors, according to the Courant article, “created fictional resumes for four high-performing recent college graduates, randomly assigning each to a religious preference — Catholic, evangelical Christian, atheist, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, or Wallonian, a fictional faith. There was also a control group with no religious affiliation.”

The professors conducted two studies: one focusing on New England and the other in the South. According to UConn, “The results bore that out in the New England study: applicants expressing any religious identification received 19 percent fewer overall contacts than the applicants from the non-religious control group. What the researchers did not expect, though, was the scope of the apparent bias against Muslim applicants: Muslims received 32 percent fewer emails and 48 percent fewer phone calls than applicants from the control group, far outweighing measurable bias against the other faith groups.”

According to UConn, “By measures like church attendance and belief in God, the South is significantly more religious than New England, and has a much larger evangelical Christian population, and Wallace and Wright wondered how this would affect the results.

“The researchers sent out 3,200 applications to employers within 150 miles of two major Southern cities and found that, when it comes to religious bias, Southern employers have much in common with their New England counterparts. The Southern study found that religious resumes received 29 percent fewer emails and 33 percent fewer phone calls than the control-group resumes; but Muslim applications got 38 percent fewer emails and 54 percent fewer phone calls than the non-religious control group, and were less likely to get a response than those with any other religious indicator.”

Wallace told the Courant it was “not a total surprise” to see that the apparent bias against Muslim applicants was more marked than for any of the groups: Muslim applicants received 32 percent fewer emails and 48 percent fewer phone calls than applicants from the control group.

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