Good Friday as Paid Holiday?
SFbay 156 Posts
An employee came to me asking why Good Friday is not one of our company's paid holidays. He said a lot of his friends have it as a holiday, which surprised me a bit. I am wondering how many companies actually observe Good Friday as a paid holiday. Does it differ by region? It it fair to observe some religious holidays but not others?
When I first starting working in the 1970s, most companies were closed on Good Friday or employees were given a choice between Good Friday and a Jewish holiday that fell during the workweek.
Now we have floating holidays and employees can choose to take Good Friday as one of them. Some other companies in the area do not give this choice, so employees have to take Good Friday as a vacation or personal day.
A lot of companies give Christmas off and not Good Friday because the banks are open and there is mail on Good Friday, but not on Christmas, so it is a business, reason rather than a religious, decision.
When I first entered the workforce, it seemed to me that it was more common for Good Friday to be a paid holiday. I've assumed that the reason was for what SFbay is asking about--mainly, the perception of fairness of observing a Christian holiday. I'm surprised too by BKate's findings from the benefits survey, which prompts me to ask the following: Would an employee (or better yet, a group of employees) of a different religious denomination have a legitimate complaint against an employer that gave this religious holiday off and not a day deemed sacred/important to their own religion? Could they actually try to claim it was discriminatory because it "favored" Christians? Or would that not be valid since everyone gets the day off, so nobody is being treated differently? Ultimately, isn't it the employer's choice to pick and choose what days are paid holidays?
I don't think private employers should have to start worrying about whether any group of employees is going to be offended because they did or did not offer a specific day as a holiday. If my employer gave President's Day as a paid holiday, but not Martin Luther King Day, is that race discrimination? Of course not. And neither, I think, could the scenario you're asking about be deemed religious discrimination.
Remember, although virtually all of them do, private employers aren't required to observe any holdiay! It's not an employee right.
As others have mentioned, though, I think that the best way to guard against any type of complaint in this area is to have floating paid holidays. If someone of a particular religious group doesn't get a day off among the 'traditional' holidays an employer offers, they can use one of their floating holidays for this purpose.
Our company observes Good Friday as a holiday and the previous company I worked for also observed the holiday. In the past even if a company didn't offer it I always took the day off anyway as part of my religious observance.