Do Employers Have To Let Their Employees Take Religious Holidays Off?

According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, businesses that have 15 or more employees have to make reasonable accommodations for their employees’ religious observances. This means that if a covered employer can reasonably accommodate an employee’s request for a religious observance, they must do so. Anti-discrimination laws in some states might even cover religious accommodations for smaller businesses.

Religious accommodations often present themselves in the form of a request for time off for religious observances that do not conform to the employer’s holiday schedule. If allowing an employee to have a religious holiday that they observe off would cause an undue hardship for the company, the accommodation does not have to be provided by the employer.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission(EEOC), "An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work."

Because employers will often receive multiple time-off requests for the same religious holiday, an employer should handle and accommodate such requests in a consistent and nondiscriminatory manner. Businesses should utilize a system of seniority or some other neutral system to determine which employees should be accommodated first. Employers can also consider splitting up the day, this way so some employees can have the morning off and others can take the afternoon off.

When it comes to meeting religious accommodations, employers should use their employees’ willingness to work together and voluntarily switch shifts to schedule around the holidays that will be observed. However, employees should still be allowed to use applicable paid time-off benefits that are consistent with the businesses’ policies regarding the observance of religious holidays. If an employee has used up all of their paid time-off benefits and they wish to observe a religious holiday, he or she can still be accommodated with unpaid time off. If the employer allows flexible work schedules or make-up time, employees who request time off to observe a religious holiday should be afforded these same options.

At the Mazaheri Law Firm, we are dedicated to providing strong representation for employees who have been discriminated against or have had their labor rights violated. We advocate for the rights of all our clients and we aggressively pursue the justice that they deserve. Our team of experienced lawyers is familiar with disputes between workers and their employers. Let us use our resources to help with your case today.

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