What counts as religious discrimination?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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What counts as religious discrimination?

My family observes the Sabbath and certain holy days throughout the year. I went to an interview and explained about the Sabbath day – no work on Saturdays. The employer was understanding. They called back later to offer me the job. They asked when I could start working. I explained to them that in the month of

October I observe certain holy days which I would have to take off including a week long break. They said that will be fine since it is not a busy time of the year. My first day of work would then be October 1. I arrive at my first day of work where I am told by the supervisor that the hiring manager relayed to him that taking off all

those days would be too much and they would have to discuss before they can hire me. Does this sound like religious discrimination or do they have the right to not hire me because of a period of days that I need to take off due to religion? I told them it’s just the month of October and I will be fully available from October 23rd and on.

Asked on October 1, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It depends on whether missing that number of days in one month is "reasonable" or not for a new employee, who has to learn what to do, and who has not accured or earned any paid time off yet. The employer does not have an absolute obligation to accommodate an employee's religion: they only must do what is reasonable, which is a case-by-case determination based on the burden to the employer under the circumstances. It is very difficult to have someone start work if they are going to be unavailable for over one third of their first three weeks of work; while that is not to say that the requested accommodation is necessarily unreasonable in this case, or that you might not win if you brought a religious discrimnation claim, it is to say that we cannot assert that the requested accommodation is absolutely reasonable, either: it falls in an area where the case could be decided either way, so you need to decide whether you deem it worthwhile to try to push this issue.

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