Please review the case study under the link below and provide an overview of the case as well as your opinion regarding whether or not discrimination and/or harassment occurred in the workplace and why. You will also need to answer the questions that are listed at the end of the case study. Your document should be approximately 2 – 3 pages in length, single spaced, and in 12 point font. Please do not forget to have a heading on your paper that includes: your name, course name, date, and title of your document. This document should be uploaded/submitted to this assignment for your instructor to review.
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Religious Discrimination and Racial Harassment:
What Ever Happened to MarShawn DeMur?
By Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D.
Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D.
SHRM project contributors:
Bill Schaefer, SPHR
Nancy A. Woolever, SPHR
Sharon H. Leonard
Katya Scanlan, copy editor
Terry Biddle, graphic designer
© 2009 Society for Human Resource Management. Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D.
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The diversity of the domestic and global workforce is increasing due to the growing
number of immigrants and the expansion of global operations. The management of
religious differences and the interface of varying religious beliefs and management
practices are profound concerns for many organizations and human resource
professionals. Religious communities may be quite different in beliefs and practices,
and this can influence employee interaction with formal and informal work practices
and social norms. Additionally, response to religious differences can sometimes be
intertwined with racial biases and attitude predispositions. This case will depict
a particular organizational situation involving an employee’s religious beliefs and
the resulting allegations of racial harassment and religious discrimination. (Note:
The people and facts in this case are fictitious and do not represent any known party,
organization, religion or situation.)
Treton Communications, Inc. is a public giant in the telecommunications industry.
Headquartered in Eastern Michigan, Treton offers a range of wireless and wireline
communications services to consumers, businesses and government users. In
addition to its headquarters campus, Treton has call centers and regional operations
throughout the United States. The company’s gross revenue was $20 billion in 2007,
with 30,000 employees worldwide. Two years ago, Treton expanded its operations
with the opening of its Midwest facility and plans to add two more facilities in
Southern and Northwestern locations in the United States. These new facilities offer
many Treton employees exciting opportunities for advancement.
The Midwest facility is located in Chenworth, Kansas. It currently employs 360
workers, with plans to reach a full workforce complement of 800 employees within
three years. Chenworth’s demographics indicate a population that is predominantly
white, with 7 percent racial/ethnic minorities. The demographics of the 360
employees of the Midwest facility similarly reflect a 5 percent racial/ethnic
Treton takes pride in its non-union status and strives to develop policy and
implement programs that demonstrate its strong company culture of employee
development and empowerment, procedural and operational integrity, and ethical
decision-making. To sustain its culture and values, Treton has policies, procedures
and guidelines that articulate its expectations of employee and employer behaviors.
Promoting and facilitating workforce diversity is a guiding principle for Treton. The
organization has written policies and directives regarding workforce diversity, equal
employment opportunity/nondiscrimination and workplace harassment.
© 2009 Society for Human Resource Management. Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D. 1
Employee filing the complaint
Midwest facilities director and MarShawn’s supervisor
Midwest facility human resources director, EEO and
diversity compliance officer
Corporate vice president for EEO and diversity
MarShawn DeMur has worked for Treton for six years. He started as a management
intern working summers while attending college. After graduation, he was hired as a
customer service supervisor overseeing three technicians in one of the large customer
service centers in Detroit, Michigan.
DeMur was encouraged by a manager at the Michigan center to apply for a
promotion and transfer to the newly opened Midwest facility. DeMur, who is African
American, had questions about the demographics of the location and the facility
but decided to apply for an operations manager position at the Kansas facility. The
operations manager position reported to the facility director, Clive Jenkins. DeMur
was selected for an interview with Jenkins. During the interview, Jenkins discussed
company philosophy and his vision that the facility would operate as “one big happy
family.” Employees would be evaluated on their strengths and productivity, and the
benefits of diversity in all areas would be maximized. Jenkins assured DeMur that if
hired, the management team would help him with his transition.
The day after the interview, Jenkins invited DeMur to attend his church to meet new
people and get acquainted with others in the city. He was told that several facility
employees were church members. Jenkins invited DeMur to his home for a casual
dinner after church services. Most of the dinner guests were church members, with
a few other community people in the mix. It was a pleasant affair where DeMur
exchanged contact information with several people and received pledges from others
to look out for him if he relocated. DeMur thought the new job would be a good
career change, especially with such a supportive group of people. He was offered the
position, accepted the job and moved to Kansas.
DeMur started his new position with enthusiasm. He interacted well with coworkers and subordinates and demonstrated high technical competence in his work.
Jenkins often complimented Demur on his ideas and work ethic. His first annual
performance appraisal was superior in all areas. DeMur liked his job and saw great
potential for advancement in the company.
Before he had accepted his new job and moved to Kansas, DeMur decided to
become a member of the Church of International Spirituality. The existence of a
small African-American congregation of Internationalists in Chenworth, Kansas,
influenced DeMur’s decision to take the promotion and relocate. Although the
Internationalist congregation in Chenworth was comprised of only 80 people,
2 © 2009 Society for Human Resource Management. Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D.
they held regular worship services and offered spiritual education classes. The
Internationalists were regarded as a new-age religious group. They required members
to commit to strict restrictions on diet, appearance, methods of worship and other
areas of conduct. DeMur was quite committed to Internationalist beliefs. He was
often found reading Internationalist materials on his work breaks and during
The final step to become an Internationalist was a five-day intensive spiritual
preparation and confirmation process. Participation in this religious practice required
DeMur to be away from work for a week. He approached Jenkins about this need
and requested a week of vacation to attend the final process for church membership.
Jenkins inquired about the reason for the time off. He asked many questions about
the Internationalist religion and admitted that he was not familiar with the religious
group. He raised several questions about the authenticity of the religion. During the
conversation, Jenkins told DeMur, “You know I am a religious person, but what you
describe sounds quite strange. I need some information on this so-called religion
before I can make a decision to give you a week off. We are quite busy, you know!
I have been wondering about what I have seen you reading, and, frankly, some of
your workers have asked me about the pamphlets you leave around your office.”
Although DeMur was disturbed by the conversation, he complied with the request
for information. Jenkins reluctantly granted the time off.
A few days before DeMur was to leave for his vacation, several employees approached
him and asked about his “so-called” religion. They told DeMur that the members
of his new congregation were considered strange by others in the city. Many
called them voodooists and partakers of witchcraft and sorcery. DeMur countered
these remarks by providing more correct information about the Internationalist
religion. He wondered about the source of his co-worker’s perceptions. Despite this,
DeMur left to attend his week-long confirmation ceremony excited about meeting
Internationalists were required to change their names after confirmation to reflect
their changed position based on spiritual doctrine. DeMur was given the spiritual
name of Maalick and was required to use it at all times. When Maalick returned to
work, he stopped by the HR department to complete the paperwork to formally
change his name. He spoke with HR director, Marta Ford, about the questions his
co-workers asked him about his religious beliefs. Ford assured him that his name
change would be recognized and reflected in company records and told him not to
worry about his co-workers. Maalick proceeded with his normal duties and began to
sign correspondence with the name Maalick.
When he entered his department the next day, he noticed strange looks from his
co-workers. As he greeted them, they simply nodded their heads, laughed and
immediately walked away. When he entered his office, Maalick found it decorated
with dolls with pins sticking out of various body parts, witch hats and containers of
incense. On the wall behind his desk was a picture of Africa decorated with strange
letterings and symbols. Maalick was astonished and immediately called Jenkins and
© 2009 Society for Human Resource Management. Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D. 3
asked that he come to his office. When Jenkins saw the office, he laughed and said,
“Well DeMur—or shall I say Maalick—I must say you have some admirers. As an
American with African roots, you should have expected some lighthearted ribbing
about your conversion to that strange religion of yours. Even you must admit that
they do some weird things.” Maalick replied, “No, I must say that I did not expect
this!” Jenkins recognized that Maalick was angry and upset over the incident and
promised to handle the situation.
Over the next several months, Maalick received a series of notes left on his desk and
car referencing black cats, black magic, requests for palm readings and notices about
the disappearance of MarShawn DeMur. Not wanting to cause any problems or be
labeled as a troublemaker, Maalick ignored these incidents, thinking that people
would tire of the pranks and things would die down. However, on one occasion,
he found on his desk several sheets of what appeared to be chants with a title at
the top that read “Prayers for Black Folk.” Next to the pages was a book titled
Mystical Practices from the Negro Experience. Maalick immediately took the materials
to the HR department and met with Ford. Ford told Maalick, “I have been out
of the office a lot helping with the staffing of the new Northwestern facility and
had no idea you were having these kinds of problems. Do you have any idea who is
responsible for these actions?”
“No I don’t,” said Maalick.
“This is not the type of behavior that is condoned at Treton. Don’t worry, I will
handle this immediately. I am so sorry about all of this,” said Ford.
After Maalick left her office, Ford called a meeting of all department heads and
informed them of the situation. Ford immediately sent an e-mail to all facility
employees, reminding them of Treton’s policies regarding discrimination and
harassment and the penalties associated with such actions. By the end of the day, all
department heads met with their employees with specific warnings and orders for the
behaviors to cease and desist. The days following were a bit tense in the office but
calm. Maalick was relieved to not find any more notes or messages.
Ford visited with Maalick on several occasions to ensure that he was not continuing
to experience any problems. Maalick was happy to report that, in his opinion, all
was well. On Ford’s last visit, Maalick took the opportunity to ask about two new
systems manager openings. Promotion to a systems manager position would assist
Maalick’s career goals for advancement with Treton. Ford sent Maalick the position
description and encouraged him to apply. After reviewing the systems manager job
requirements, Maalick believed that he had more than a good chance at a promotion.
He spoke with Jenkins about the job duties and requirements and expressed his
interest in the position. Maalick was informed that at that time, only one of the
vacancies would be filled. The second vacancy would be filled within the next six
months. These positions also reported to Jenkins.
Maalick applied for the position and was interviewed by Jenkins. The job was given
to an outside candidate, Charles Bartlett. Maalick later discovered that Bartlett
4 © 2009 Society for Human Resource Management. Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D.
was a member of Jenkins’ church. Given Maalick’s perception of his qualifications
and excellent performance record, he wondered if there were factors other than
qualification that influenced the decision not to promote him. He also recalled
Jenkins’ conduct at the company holiday party where he joked about Maalick’s
conversion to the Internationalist faith. Maalick filed a formal complaint with Ford,
alleging religious discrimination and racial harassment. As required by Treton policy,
Ford reported the particulars of the complaint to Judith Dixon, vice president for
EEO and diversity, at the corporate office. The next afternoon, Dixon was at the
Chenworth facility meeting with Ford and Jenkins.
Questions for Discussion
1. Identify and describe the specific issues Maalick encountered in the workplace.
Do the actions of other workers at Treton represent discrimination and
harassment? What elements of law are important for Treton to consider?
2. Evaluate the actions of the HR director, Marta Ford, in response to Maalick’s
situation. What could she have done to prevent the situation and what more could
she do to ensure that this type of situation would not occur in the future?
3. How would you characterize Clive Jenkins’ behavior and response to
4. What resolution to this situation might Judith Dixon suggest?
5. What are the broader implications of this situation for Treton? What
type of organizational review might Dixon initiate or suggest from a
© 2009 Society for Human Resource Management. Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D. 5
Treton Communications, Inc.
Treton Communications, Inc. is an Equal Employment Opportunity employer.
Policies of the company prohibit discrimination against an applicant or employee on
the basis of race, color, religion, sex/gender (including pregnancy), national origin,
age, disability, marital status or veteran status. The company will conform to the
spirit as well as the letter of all applicable laws and regulations.
The policy of equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination applies to
all company facilities, employees and conditions of employment, including but not
limited to hiring; promotion; transfer; evaluation; termination; layoff; training
and accessibility to training; working conditions; wages and salary; employee
benefits; and application of policies. Managers and supervisors at all levels have
the responsibility to ensure equal employment opportunity. Managers and
supervisors will be held accountable for achieving the adherence to this policy, and
their annual performance will be evaluated in terms of this as well as other major
Employees at Treton Communications, Inc. are critical to creating and sustaining
the organization’s competitive advantage. Diversity and inclusion are top priorities,
and the company strives to maximize the benefits derived from the incorporation
of diverse perspectives. It is Treton’s position that a diverse workforce contributes
to our strengths as a world-class provider of telecommunication services and
enhances our ability to anticipate and satisfy the needs of our customers and clients.
We leverage the benefits of diversity through our employee policies and practices,
community investment and outreach.
Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates one or more of
the following: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination
in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of
1990 (ADA). Harassment is defined as unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based
on race, color, religion, sex (including same-gender harassment and gender identity
harassment), national origin, age, disability or retaliation. Harassment becomes
1) Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued
2) The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment
that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile or abusive.
6 © 2009 Society for Human Resource Management. Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D.
Harassing behavior might be exhibited by anyone in the workplace, including
management and supervisory staff, co-workers and peers, vendors/suppliers,
contractors and subcontractors, or customer and clients. Victims of harassment can
be anyone affected by the conduct, not just the individual at whom the offensive
conduct is directed.
Employees at all levels, persons engaged in activities on the premises of Treton or
persons who represent the company in any capacity are required to comply with the
letter and spirit of this policy and all applicable and associated laws and regulations.
Any employee or representative of Treton who believes that he or she:
1) Has been discriminated against;
2) Is the target of harassment;
3) Is being required to participate in unlawful discrimination and/or harassment
4) Has witnessed unlawful discrimination and/or harassment;
Should seek guidance from his or her supervisor, other management/supervisory
personnel or the facility/location compliance officer. To the extent possible, all
information will be maintained on a confidential basis. When a supervisor/manager
is notified or is aware of discrimination or harassment, he or she must notify the
facility compliance officer. The compliance offer for the Midwest facility is Marta
Ford, Director of Human Resources, Office 356, Phone 884-765-1234, e-mail
Violation of Policy
Violations of these policies, regardless of whether an actual law has been violated,
will not be tolerated. The company will investigate every issue that is brought to its
attention as relating to these policies and will take appropriate disciplinary action, up
to and including termination of employment.
© 2009 Society for Human Resource Management. Gwendolyn M. Combs, Ph.D. 7
Treton Midwest Facility Organizational Chart
EEO & Diversity
Human Resources &
EEO Diversi …
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