Religious Accommodation

I have a long time employee (hired in 2003) who has requested accommodation for the newly required Saturday morning work schedule. Saturday moring work has always been part of our schedule, but not as a mandatory part of the work week. We are facing an upturn in orders that have required a short terrm (2-3 months) addition of these hours in order to meet the production schedule.This is the first request for accommodation he has made, and while I have no problem with accommodatiing as needed, it has caused quite a stir on the shop floor for the rest of the employees that are reqiuired to work those hours. We cannot offer the accommodation while requesting he add the missed hours to his current work day since they are already on extended days and our supervisory staff is not in a position to remain onsite even longer on those days to accommodate this one employee. In the past he has worked some Saturday hours when it was not mandatory.

What do you suggest as to what I should get from him to show that this is a real request for accommodation and not a desire not to work Saatturday mornings in the Summer months?

Any ideas or suggestions as to how to best handle this without causing more upset to the other employees in his same job category would be very welcome

 Thank you !


  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Two questions: 

    Did this employee recently convert to a religion that holds Saturday as the Sabbath or day of rest?  If not, why was he able to work Saturdays in the past?

    Do you have another worker who is crosstrained in this employee's job who can fill in on Saturday mornings or will the absence of this particular employee cause production delays or problems?

  • The employee only has to have a sincerely held belief, but the religious practice doesn't have to be required by the religious group the employee belongs to so he doesn't have to provide a note from the leader of the group or anything like that.  I guess there's a question about how sincere he is in his belief because he used to work Saturday hours, but he would only have to say he changed his belief and now sincerely believes he can't work on Saturdays.  People can join new religious groups or change the way they observe their religion and still be sincere.  I think you have to accommodate if it isn't an undue hardship, but has he told you what he needs for an accommodation?  Does he have to have the whole day off or just time to attend service?  Good luck -- this one's not easy!
  • I would focus on the undue hardship issue rather than the question of whether his belief is sincerely held -- it is easier to prove. To determine whether the religious accommodation presents an undue hardship, consider whether allowing him time off on Saturdays imposes a significant difficulty or expense on the employer (taking into account the employer's size and financial status). Just because his religious practice irritates co-workers, itdoesn't make it an undue hardship. 
  • I would have to agree with the last two posts. I would accommodate the request. You may want to review your policies and make sure they are compliant with the new changes and review some recent cases on the subject. I am not sure that undue hardship would work since the ramp up is just for a few weeks or months and this is not an everyday occurrence in your business. The law is really on the employees side and I would just grin and bear it. I wish you the best.
  • What if Saturday is a mandatory work day, every week, for every employee in this department?  Every employee in this department (retail) works Saturday and is off Sunday and one day during the week.  Saturday is also the day that results in the highest revenue.

  • You would still need to prove that it is an undue hardship to the company to allow this one employee the necessary time off to accomodate his religious beliefs.
  • Once the sincerely held belief doctrine went active, there's not a whole lot one can do without showing a pretty serious business or safety problem with the accomodation.
  • If the person is Jewish, then one should take the request very seriously.
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