Happy Jewish New Year! And though we're a little late (and early) for it, Eid Mubarak as well! For many, these religious holidays are a time to worship, celebrate, and spend time with families. In fact, for many Jewish people, work is out of the question on certain religious holidays.
How does this jibe with the laws regarding employment? Though there are no absolute laws that guarantee time off for religious holidays (aside from Christmas, which is a federal holiday), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act does address the matter somewhat. It requires employers to make "reasonable accommodations" for employees' religious practices.
What is reasonable? That's the key question.
There is no hard and fast rule. Whether or not a request for time off is reasonable will depend on a number of factors, including the type of workplace, the amount of time requested, and the employer's ability to cover your shift.
For example, if a waitress requests one day off for Rosh Hashanah, that would likely be considered a reasonable accommodation. The employer would be required to accommodate such a request.
On the other hand, if a professional football player wanted to take a week off in the middle of the season in order to go on an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, the employer would not necessarily be required to allow the leave of absence. Football is only a 17-week season (especially if you play for the Oakland Raiders). Missing a full week is missing about 6% of the season. Plus, if the player is elite, there aren't many other players who'd be able to fill in during his leave of absence.
One great tip for avoiding conflicts is by planning your time off well in advance of the actual date. If your employer has advance notice, she will be better able to cover your shift and provide accommodations. Plus, if you have an employment contract, time off for religious holidays can be included in the agreement.
Note that even if your employer gives you time off for a religious holiday, she is not required by law to pay you for the day. We'd recommend including that in your employment contract as well.
- Consult a Chicago Employment Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- Ho, Ho, Hold My Pay? Paid Holidays not Guaranteed by Law (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life)
- Facts About Religious Discrimination (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Religion in the Workplace (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)