The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved protections for religious rights in the workplace as part of a whistleblower protection act. The 426-0 vote last week on the amendment incorporated into the act President Clinton’s 1997 executive order that ensures accommodation of religious practices in the federal workplace. The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which would protect federal whistleblowers from retaliation, also passed, 331-94.The provision would protect whistleblowers who want to report that their religious rights have been violated. The effect of the provision also would be to legislate protections that until now had existed only as an executive order. Among other protections, the 1997 order protects workers who want to wear skullcaps or crucifixes in the workplace. President Bush has said he will veto the whistleblower act, saying it is an unconstitutional infringement on his powers, although it currently has a veto-proof majority. The act has yet to be considered by the Senate.Protections similar to those outlined in the provision are written into the separate Workplace Religious Freedom Act, also introduced last week. WRFA has broad Jewish community support. Regarding the provision into the whistleblower act, the Orthodox Union said it applauded “the House’s effort to ensure that religious federal employees are better protected in situations of conflict between the demands of their faith and the demands of their jobs.”
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