If my employer has told me that I am not to use vacation time to get ready for church related activities., is this legal?

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If my employer has told me that I am not to use vacation time to get ready for church related activities., is this legal?

Asked on January 6, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Alaska

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you work for a government entity, this would clearly not be legal--the 1st Amendment prevents a government employer from interfering with your free exercise of religion.

It may be legal if a private employer tells you this, in certain narrow instances, if the rule is "neutral"--that is, if the reason you can't get ready for a church-related activity is that you, for example, can only use vacation time in full-day increments, but you want to be able to take just a few hours off for this purpose. So if there is some rule about the use of vacation time which is NOT aimed specifically at church activities, but which is causing a problem for you nonetheless, that could possibly be legal.

Howver, even for a private employer, discrimination against employees on the basis of religion is not allowed. So if, for example, you could use the vacation time you want to use for any other purpose, but are prevented specifically from using it for church, that would be illegal.

So, to sum it up: the only circumstances under which this might be legal is if there is a rule, not aimed at religous activities and which is applied even-handedly, which happens to be causing you trouble. Otherwise, this would be illegal, and you could either file a complaint (e.g. with the EEOC or a state equal rights or labor agency) and/or bring a lawsuit.


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