Religious Accommodations - Undue Hardship

We operate a 24/7 long term care facility.  We require all CNAs, LPNs and RNs to work every other weekend. A CNA applicant did not indicate on her application or during the interview that she could not work on Sundays so we hired her.  During orientation, she informs us that she is not available on Sundays.  Both the Director of Nursing and I (HR Director) spoke to her, reiterated our policy that was discussed during the interview, and explained that several employees would like to have Sundays off but we do not make exceptions.  We told her if she isn't available on Sundays we would have to terminate her employment.

She is now stating she can not work due to religious reasons and she gave us a note from her pastor stating it’s against their belief to work on Sundays.

It is very difficult to staff the facility during the weekends which is why we made the policy.  Would this be considered an undue hardship for us to make this accomodation due to staffing problems? 


  • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • For religious accommodation, you can claim undue hardship if would require more than ordinary administrative costs.  The EEOC does encourage employers to try to find voluntary substitutes or employees who would swap schedules with the person who needs to be absent for religious reasons.  I'm not sure that would work in your facility, given that you need staff 24/7.  But, before I would terminate someone who has asked for a religious accommodation, I would check with my attorney.
  • [quote user="Chicago1"]. . .But, before I would terminate someone who has asked for a religious accommodation, I would check with my attorney. [/quote]


    There is a danger the the employer's obligation will depend on circuit.

    Generally speaking, you can't say "we don't make religious accomodations."  Therefore, when you say that the company does not permit employees to get out of their weekend work duties, you have to have a reason that is within the religious accomodation exceptions.

    If you read the blurb on EEOC's website about religious accomodation, you will see that EEOC begins with a presumption that there is something the employer can do:

    Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation

    The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.
    Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices

    However, the EEOC does set standards for exceptions that, naturally, conflict with standards for accomodation.

    Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation & Undue Hardship

    An employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. 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.

    This means the EEOC's determination is made on a case by case basis.  Only a local attorney can properly advise you about the specifics of your case in your state (which may also have a relevant statute with different standards), in your federal circuit.

  • While not necessarily convenient would having this person work every Saturday work for your facility?
  • I have a fairly detailed response floating around in moderation land.
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