I Got Fired For Skipping The Office Christmas Party Because Of My Religious Beliefs

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PHOTO: UNSPLASH

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For many corporations, the concept of diversity is more about meeting quotas than tolerance and acceptance of our differences — something I learned the hard way while working for a "nationwide homebuilder." 

Right off the bat, I noticed that I was only one a few chocolate chips in the cookie, if you get my drift. But I knew that being Black wasn't going to be my biggest challenge at the office — being Black and Muslim was.

I don't hide my religion, for what it's worth. Wearing the last name "Muhammad" would suggest to most that I'm Muslim. I don't eat pork or drink alcohol, and my diet is largely plant-based. I usually wear something to at least partially cover my hair if it isn't pulled back away from my face. My attire is very modest; I cover almost every part of my body year-round. I wear jewelry that features etchings of Islamic symbolism and messages in Arabic.

And the fact that I'm Muslim was obvious to my coworkers and boss: Not only did I pass on meat during every meeting, office potluck, and holiday celebration, but I also fasted during Ramadan. I worked Christian holidays when others were taking off in hopes of getting less static when I needed to observe my own. On top of all that, I literally told people at every level, from managers down to the hourlies, that I'm Muslim.

When December rolled around, I notified my boss in advance that I wouldn't be attending the Christmas party because I had to do something with my daughter. I also let her know that I had plans to take off during the holidays — something I was (finally) able to do because they had just hired a partner for me who could cover. During our conversation, my boss and I talked about me being a Muslim and how nice it would be for me to spend time with my extended family. She didn't express any disapproval of me missing the party at the time

They took my livelihood because I would no longer give up my life to better fit into theirs.

The very next month, I got a big, unwelcome surprise during my performance evaluation: My current AND former bosses decided that I needed to take on the work of two more people for the same pay. When I pushed back, they accused me of not being a team player, citing my absence from the Christmas party as an example of how I didn't get along well with my coworkers. It all felt like a setup to get me to take on the additional work, my bosses seemingly figuring I would willingly do two other people's jobs — both of which I didn't have time to train for, mind you — just to prove that I was a cooperative member of the team. 

I reached out to the corporate human resources department after my performance evaluation and they agreed that what was being forced upon me was unreasonable. But within weeks of the HR representative informing me that I had a right to work in an environment that was fair and balanced, my boss terminated me because I "just didn't fit in" anymore. They even tried to deny my unemployment, seemingly out of spite.

While the company initially seemed to be tolerant of my diversity, I eventually found out that my needs and those of my family's didn't matter to them. They took my livelihood because I would no longer give up my life to better fit into theirs. Go figure.

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RAYCHELLE MUHAMMAD

Raychelle Muhammad is a freelance writer, blogger, and marketing manager. She has a Bachelor's degree in sports management and has been blogging since 2006. Raychelle writes mostly about social justice, crime, urban matters, and pop culture. When she isn't working, you can find her doting on her teenage daughter or hitting the gym.

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