Philadelphia Employment Law News

Can You Get Time Off for Religious Holidays?

Of course you get time off for Christmas because it's a designated federal holiday. But what if your religion has holy days that don't coincide with federal or state holidays?

Currently, we are in the time of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, two Jewish holidays for which many faithful take time off from work.

Do these followers just have benevolent bosses, or are employers required to allow workers to take time off for religious holidays?

The Bill of Rights gives every citizen certain rights. The First Amendment promises that the rights of free speech, free press, and the freedom of religion will not be taken away by the government. The right to worship as you please was expanded to private companies by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Title VII requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees in their religious beliefs. An accommodation is reasonable unless it creates an undue hardship for the employer. An undue hardship is something that would impose immense costs on the company or practically shut the company down.

A worker's request for one day off for a religious holiday would likely be considered a reasonable accommodation. However, if you need a month or more off, it would be more difficult to convince a judge or jury that this is not an undue hardship to a company.

Since all companies are different, reasonable accommodations will change for each employer. While it may be reasonable for a worker to take two days off from a larger company, such a request may be deemed an undue hardship for a smaller company.

So if you need to take off for Yom Kippur, Eid, or Diwali, be sure to let your employer know well in advance. Also, if possible, you should make sure that your shift is covered or that your work for the day is complete prior to the time you need off.

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