Companies are becoming increasingly aware of the needs and rights of their employees. Employee performance is directly linked to employee satisfaction and the work environment, which leads to a company’s financial success. Employers know this, and want to make sure they not only retain the best talent in their companies but also make sure their workers remain happy with their job.
One way to do that is by accommodating the employees with religious leaves.
Religion is a sensitive topic, and religious observance leave is an issue that many companies struggle with. There’s no one size fits all answer to this issue, as it depends on the company, the employee, and their religion.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Religious Holidays
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Title VII requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for religious beliefs and practices. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs where it would not cause undue hardship.
If an employer fails to provide a reasonable accommodation, they may be liable for religious discrimination under Title VII. An employer’s refusal to allow an employee time off for religious purposes is considered a failure to accommodate their religious practices.
What is Undue Hardship?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.”
Undue hardship is a legal term that refers to an employer’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability.
The undue hardship standard is used when an employer denies a request for accommodation by the employee, and the employee claims that it would be difficult, but not impossible, for the employer to provide the requested accommodation.
When determining whether or not there is undue hardship, courts look at factors like:
- The nature and cost of the accommodation
- The financial resources of the business and its size
- The type of operation (for example, whether or not it involves public safety)
- The overall financial resources of the business
What Constitutes a Reasonable Accommodation for Religious Reasons?
Reasonable accommodation for religious reasons is anything that allows an employee to practice their religion without violating the employer’s policies or interfering with their ability to do their job.
Some examples of reasonable accommodations include:
- Allowing employees to wear religious clothing at work (e.g., hijab, turban)
- Allowing employees to take time off for religious holidays
- Allowing employees to take time off for religious services
- Changing shifts with other employees to allow for religious observances
- Working extra hours to make up for the time off taken
What Steps can Employers Take to Accommodate Employees?
Employers need to be aware of the needs of their employees. They should also be flexible and respectful of these needs. For instance, if your business is located in India, it’s important that you know that Diwali is a major holiday for many people who work for you. If you have employees with strong religious beliefs, then it’s essential that you know this.
You need to make sure that your policies do not discriminate against an employee because of their religion. For example, suppose a Muslim employee wants an extra day off on Eid al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice). In that case, they should get it unless there are extenuating circumstances (such as another holiday falling on the same day).
Know the Preferences
Another thing employers need to consider involves employees’ preferences when making decisions about religious holidays: If your employees come from different religions and cultures—or come from no faith at all—then they may have different opinions about what days are appropriate for taking leave during religious holidays.
Discuss With the Employees
As an employer, you should be open to supporting your employees’ needs for religious observance leave. In order for this to work well and be mutually beneficial, both parties need to have a discussion about it. The employee should let their employer know about the religious holiday and what kind of accommodations they would need.
The employer can then inform them whether or not they are willing to make those accommodations. If they are willing to support the employee’s wishes (for whatever reason), it will benefit both parties by ensuring that everyone gets what they need out of the situation.
How Should Employees Request a Religious Observance Leave from Their Employer?
Know the Policy of the Company
There are a few things employees should keep in mind when requesting a religious observance leave from their employer. First, it’s essential to know the policy of the company. If the employer has a policy on religious observance leaves, they should read it carefully and follow the instructions as closely as possible. They can also ask for clarification if they have questions about how or when to request this type of leave.
Request in Writing
Employees should request a religious observance leave from their employer in writing. The request should include details about the observance, such as the dates and times of the holiday and any other information that may be relevant to the request. It is also important for employees to state how long they would like to be off work.
Employees should start planning for the request —and do not forget to communicate with their manager or human resources department! Employees will want to let them know what type of religious observance it is, how long it will last, and why. It’s helpful if they can provide documentation about when and how often the observance occurs each year so that the employer can verify that it qualifies as a “bona fide” religious holiday according to federal law.
Clarity of the Reason
Employees should be clear about the reason for the request: religious observance or other faith-related activity. Suppose an employee wants to take a break from work to do something else but wants it counted as religious observance leave. In that case, they may need approval from their manager beforehand (especially if this breaks company policy).
How can Employers Make it Easy For Employees to Request a Religious Observance Leave?
Is there a way employers can easily accommodate employees or make it comfortable for them to request a religious leave?
Making the Process Easy
Employers can make it easy for employees to request a religious observance leave by making the process as straightforward, simple, and stress-free as possible.
Employees should be able to request time off for religious observance in a way that works with their employers’ systems. They should be able to do this through an interface that is easy to navigate so that they don’t have to spend too much time trying to figure out the logistics of getting the time off.
Allowing to Request Off Ahead of Time
Allowing employees to request religious observance leave in advance will help them plan and take care of other matters before.
Providing Tools to Request Time Off
Employers can provide an online form for employees to request religious observance leave or a list of dates on which they can take off as needed.
For instance, AttendanceBot is one such tool that makes it a breeze for employees to request time off. Similarly, managers can approve the leaves or deny them in a matter of seconds.
Keeping the Important Religious leaves in Mind
It’s important for employers to be aware of their employee’s religious observance requirements at all times—not just when they’re looking forward to next year but also during the current calendar year because those dates may change over time depending on certain factors such as holidays falling on different days each year.
The company should build out a comprehensive list of all religious leaves for the year and give employees the chance to opt for their relevant ones at the beginning of the year itself.
Pros of Granting a Religious Observance Leave
Allowing your employees to take a religious observance leave is a win-win for everyone in the following ways:
Can attract and retain a more diverse workforce. As the job market becomes more competitive, employers are looking for ways to make themselves stand out from others in their field. One way they can do this is by offering their employees the ability to observe religious holidays. This will entice them to work with you because of the perks they get—and could also help you attract new applicants interested in these special days off. Doing this also tells the potential employee that this business values diversity and is willing to go the extra mile for them
They will be more productive and loyal workers. Suppose your company has an open policy on religious observance leaves. In that case, you’re likely going to see happier employees who want nothing but success for themselves and those around them (including management). Giving someone time off benefits the employee and helps those around them when those people feel comfortable enough around each other’s beliefs so no one feels uncomfortable about asking questions about why someone wants off from work during certain times each year.
Benefits the Employees’ Well Being
It helps the employee maintain their spiritual health. The employee will be able to practice the rituals and practices of their faith that they find meaningful, which can increase their well-being and help them feel more connected with their community.
It’s Good for Business
Employees need time to focus on personal growth and development to be effective at work. If you don’t allow employees time off for religious observances, they may feel resentful towards your company. They may also feel like they’re not taken seriously by you or other coworkers if they’re not allowed to participate in important religious events.
It’s legal! In the United States (and most other countries), employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their religious beliefs or practices—which includes granting them time off so they can participate in rituals related to these beliefs and practices without fear of retaliation from supervisors/managers.
Cons of Granting a Religious Observance Leave
However, there are drawbacks to granting religious observance leave.
Abusing the Leave
While it’s understandable that employees may want to take off their religious holidays, some people may abuse the allowance and take it off when they aren’t actually observing a religious festival. That’s why employers should have a policy in place for this type of situation.
It’s important to figure out whether or not someone is actually taking a religious observance leave for the right reasons. For example, if someone is taking time off from work to go on vacation and says it’s because they’re Jewish, you need to verify that they are actually Jewish before you grant them their request.
The best way to handle this issue is by ensuring all your employees are aware of your company policy regarding religious holidays and following up with them.
Are there any Challenges For Employers to Provide Equal Treatment of Religious Leave?
It can be difficult for an employer to provide equal treatment of religious leave and allowances if they have employees from many different religions with different holiday requirements.
Some religions have more religious holidays than others. For example, Islam has two major holidays; Judaism has eight; Christianity has one; Buddhism has three; Hinduism has nine; Sikhism has five.
Some religions’ religious holidays fall on different days of the week, Eid for instance, which may mean that all employees (or even most) can’t take their day off at once without interrupting business operations or putting undue strain on other workers who must cover their shifts.
Religious Holidays Employers Need to Keep in Mind
There are several religious leaves that employers should grant their employees:
Christian Holy Days
Employees who follow Christianity may take time off to celebrate Easter, Christmas, or other Christian holy days.
Employees who follow Judaism may take time off to observe Passover and Rosh Hashanah.
Employees who follow Hinduism may take time off to observe Diwali and Holi.
Employees who follow Sikhism may take time off to observe Vaisakhi and Guru Nanak’s Birthdays.
Employees who follow Islam may take time off to observe Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Ramadan, Ashura, and Muharram.
Groups Asking For Flexibility Regarding Religious Holidays
Over the last few years, many religious groups have been asking for greater flexibility regarding their religious holidays. For example, the US-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has publicly asked employers to allow Muslim employees to take time off during Eid al-Adha.
The Catholic Church has also made requests similar to CAIRs. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has urged employers to recognize Christmas as a holiday and give employees time off in order to celebrate it.
Last Word on Religious Observance Leave
In conclusion, employers should be more flexible about granting religious observance leave. This would not only help them respect the rights of their employees but also make it easier for everyone to get along at work. It’s important to remember that while many of these issues are legal, they’re also moral and should be treated as such.