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Employee Religious Holidays

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Are Employees Entitled to Time off for Religious Holidays?

Religious discrimination by employers is expressly prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and by most state constitutions. Although employers do not have to satisfy an employee's every desire in accommodating his religious beliefs, they are required to make "reasonable accommodations."  The most common accommodation is granting an employee time off to observe a religious holiday.

Are Employers Required to Pay Employees for Religious Holidays?

Employers are not required to pay their employees for leaves of absence taken to observe religious holidays. Most companies, however, will list the specific religious holidays for which their employees may be paid. For example, many facilities allow Jewish employees paid time off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

What If Employers Don't Pay Employees for Time Taken off for Religious Holidays?

Companies that do not allow paid time off for religious holidays typically make it possible for employees to observe these holidays without loss of pay by arranging for time off in some other way. Examples of such arrangements that have been found reasonable include:

  • Allowing an employee to use a floating holiday, personal day, or vacation day to take time off for celebration of a religious holiday
  • Transferring an employee to a different position that has hours more accommodating to his religious beliefs - even if that position is of lower rank
  • Allowing an employee to work late on other days in order to make up the time he plans to miss
  • Asking other employees to cover an employee's shift (who has requested a religious holiday)

When Can an Employer Refuse an Employee's Request for a Religious Holiday?

In order to legally refuse an employee's request, an employer must show that he could not reasonably accommodate the employee without undue hardship. Proving undue hardship requires an employer to show that approval of the employee's request will result in more than a minimal cost to the employer. This depends on the following factors' effect on the employer:

  • Loss of profits
  • Loss of efficiency
  • Injury to employee morale
  • Any other criteria relevant to the individual situation

Seeking Legal Help

If you legitimately believe that you are entitled to receive time off in order to celebrate a religious holiday and your employer has refused to grant your request, then you should consult an attorney. An attorney experienced in employment discrimination law will be able to determine whether you have a case for religious discrimination and will advise you of the course of action you should pursue. Your employment attorney can also explain the complex legal terms involved in employment discrimination in a way that is easier to understand.

Photo of page author Adam Vukovic

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 09-29-2015 01:31 PM PDT

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