Can an employer not grant a few hours off for a religious holiday?

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Can an employer not grant a few hours off for a religious holiday?

I work at a hospital and my employer won’t grant me and a few people off on our

religious holiday. Ee currently don’t have a union but they are thinking about bringing it back.

Asked on October 16, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Iowa

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

An employer has an obligation to not discriminate against its employees on the basis of their religion. Accordingly, it has the obligation to provide "reasonable accommodations" for its worker's religious beliefs/practices. One accommodation is allowing requests for time off for religious holidays unless it would cause an "undue hardship" on the business. For a religious accommodation to be an undue burden, an employer would need to show that the accommodation poses a substantial cost or burden. And, in most cases, providing unpaid time off is not such a burden. So unless an employee’s absence would compromise safety, force other employees to change shifts and infringe on other their rights under a seniority system, or if the employer would have to spend a significant amount for temporary workers or in overtime pay to cover the employee’s absence, the an accomodation must typically be made. That having been said, an employer does not have to pay the employee for the time that they are not working. Further, an employer may require that the worker make up the lost time or require/allow them to use a personal or vacation day.

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

An employer has an obligation to not discriminate against its employees on the basis of their religion. Accordingly, it has the obligation to provide "reasonable accommodations" for its worker's religious beliefs/practices. One accommodation is allowing requests for time off for religious holidays unless it would cause an "undue hardship" on the business. For a religious accommodation to be an undue burden, an employer would need to show that the accommodation poses a substantial cost or burden. And, in most cases, providing unpaid time off is not such a burden. So unless an employee’s absence would compromise safety, force other employees to change shifts and infringe on other their rights under a seniority system, or if the employer would have to spend a significant amount for temporary workers or in overtime pay to cover the employee’s absence, the an accomodation must typically be made. That having been said, an employer does not have to pay the employee for the time that they are not working. Further, an employer may require that the worker make up the lost time or require/allow them to use a personal or vacation day.


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