Requesting time off can be a nerve-racking experience for any employee, but the pressure is often more intense when your reasoning is a religious one. You might be worried that your boss will not understand or respect your reasons. You might fear discrimination or retaliation.
Discrimination in the workplace is still at an all-time high despite efforts to combat these unfortunate happenings. However, it’s important to remember that you have rights protected under federal law. After speaking with a few FMLA attorneys, here’s how to request time off from work for religious reasons.
Undue Hardship and Time Off
Under Title VII, the anti-discrimination statute, employers must observe an employee’s religious obligations. They must provide reasonable accommodation so long as it does not pose undue hardship to the employer. Time off for religious holidays, for instance, is a reasonable accommodation.
The trickier part to this statute is undue hardship. A Supreme Court case defined this aspect of the law as an accommodation that imposes more than the minimal burden on an employer’s operations. Which, unfortunately, means that federal law tends to side with the employer.
When it comes to time off for religious reasons, undue hardships usually include your employer having to hire replacement labor, suffering productivity losses, or incur financial costs or losses. Due to these rulings, you may not be entitled to paid leave or the accommodation of your choice.
Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Reasons
With undue hardship in mind, you have to accept accommodations that work for both you and your employer. First, it’s highly advised that you use any PTO or vacation days possible for your religious observances. You can also help sweeten the deal for your employer by:
- Working early or late to make up for time off
- Taking unpaid leave
- Swapping shifts with other employees
The Bona Fide Effort
Whether an employee needs time off for pregnancy or religious holidays, the employer cannot simply ignore this request. They must make an effort that both considers your request and work to find alternatives for fulfilling it.
If you regularly attend church on Sunday mornings, for instance, your employer could schedule you for a later shift on that day of the week to satisfy both of your needs. They might schedule you another day in the week if you observe the Sabbath or split up your allotted break time for prayer.
Remember that you are protected under federal law. While these statutes can be difficult to navigate, the best option is to work with your employer to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs. If you do find that your employer is unwilling to cooperate in the slightest, then seeking legal actions is the only choice they’ve given you.
Speak with an FMLA attorney about your situation to see what courses of action you can take. Unfortunately, cases like these aren’t uncommon in America’s court system. You can get the help you need to practice your religion freely and win in court.