“Most people have some sort of religion, at least they know which church they’re staying away from.”
Author John Erskine is right, most people do have some sort of religion.
According to an extensive study done by the Pew Research Center in 2012, 84 percent of the world identifies with some religious group. This number shows it is likely that a majority of your employees will hold some religious beliefs.
What happens when these employees request time off for a religious holiday? Are you required to grant them time off?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that all employers with 15 or more employees must make reasonable accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs or practices.
The individual must hold these beliefs sincerely; however, the beliefs may be sincerely held even if they are:
— Newly adopted
— Not consistently observed
— Different from the commonly followed tenets of the individual’s religion
A reasonable accommodation is one that eliminates the employee’s conflict between his/her religious practices and work requirements. This means that employers must take their employees’ religion into account when making job decisions.
Typically reasonable accommodations include:
— An exception to the company’s dress and grooming code for a religious practice
— A schedule change to attend a religious service
— An excused absence from a religious invocation offered before a staff activity or meeting
— An allowance to not perform certain job activities that conflict with their religious beliefs
— Time off for the observance of a religious holiday
Employers are only required to provide that a reasonable accommodation is made if it does not prove to be an undue hardship; hence the “reasonable” of reasonable accommodation.
An employer that would be required to incur more than minimal costs to accommodate an employee’s religious practices, can claim an undue hardship.
To prove an undue hardship an employer has to show it:
1. Tried in good faith to resolve the conflict between the employee’s religious needs and job requirements
2. (When an accommodation cannot be granted) Can identify an actual monetary or administrative expense
Solutions to Providing Time Off For Religious Holidays
There are several solutions businesses can use to avoid any potential conflicts for accommodating employees who want time off for religious holidays.
Offering an employee the chance to telecommute can allow them to work from home. Telecommuting can then let an employee work some during a religious holiday. If the employee does not wish to work at all during a holiday, flexible scheduling can help.
Flexible scheduling allows an employee to work longer during the other days of the week to make up for the day they are going to miss due to a religious holiday.
Paid Time Off (PTO)
Paid time off gives employees a bank of time off, with a particular total. A worker can then withdraw time when they choose. So, PTO gives employees flexibility in their time off and can allow them to take a religious holiday off and get paid for it.
Learn more about PTO and floating holidays.
Employees use floating holidays to take a paid day off to celebrate their holiday of choice. Employees get to pick which holidays they want to celebrate, this can accommodate for religious holidays.
Use these solutions to grant employees time off for religious holidays, and prevent a conflict over a reasonable accommodation.
Even if you can prove that providing a reasonable accommodation would cause an undue hardship on your company, it remains an unwise and avoidable action.
For example, fighting employees who request time off for religious holidays creates the potential for lawsuits of religious discrimination, religious harassment, and wrongful termination.
This combativeness also creates a sense of unrest that can foster feelings of intolerance and exclusion. Most people do not want to work for, or even do business with, a company that harbors animosity towards different religions.
Instituting flexible scheduling, telecommuting, PTO, or floating holidays are relatively simple solutions that can help your business accommodate its employees’ beliefs.