One practice common among many religious people is to set aside one day a week for rest and worship. For some, this day is Sunday, for others it is Friday or Saturday. Whatever the day, Sabbath observance can be a special, even sacred, practice for many people.
What can you do if your employer wants you to work on your Sabbath? Can your employer require you to work on the Sabbath and disadvantage you, or even fire you, if you won’t?
The Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on religion. Specifically, employers must accommodate an employee’s sincerely held religious beliefs or practices. For example, employers must be flexible with dress and grooming practices that are religious in nature.
Employers must also make accommodations for employees whose religion teaches them not to work on the Sabbath. This applies even if the employee has recently adopted the religious belief, has not consistently observed it, or observes it differently from most people who belong to the same religion.
Note, however, that an employer does not have to make a religious accommodation if it would impose an undue hardship on the business. What is an undue hardship? It is something that places more than a minimal burden on the business’s operations, such as jeopardizing security or health, causing a lack of needed staffing, violating a seniority system, or costing the employer more than a minimal amount.
Even if making a schedule change would impose an undue hardship on a business, the employer must allow co-workers to swap shifts or do a voluntary substitution. An employer might even have to transfer the employee to a vacant position if the employee’s position doesn’t allow for an accommodation.
Keep in mind that laws prohibiting religious discrimination apply only to businesses with 15 or more employees.
What Are Your Options to Make Sure You Can Observe Your Sabbath?
Ideally, you can try to work out a resolution with your employer that is fair to both you and your employer. Doing this will help maintain a positive, collaborative relationship with your employer. If your employer refuses to cooperate, then you can hire an attorney to help you.
An attorney can guide you through the process of filing a charge with either the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) or the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (“NERC”). An attorney can also try to work out a settlement agreement with your employer and file a lawsuit, if necessary.
What Are the Possible Solutions?
People who take action against their employers might be able to work out a settlement agreement that allows the employee to observe the Sabbath and continue working for the employer. Or the parties might choose to go their separate ways (if they have not already). In either case, the employer would likely have to agree to compensate the employee monetarily for the failure to accommodate, assuming no undue hardship exists.
In one case, a woman who was a Seventh-Day Adventist and worked at a nursing home wanted to observe her Sabbath on Saturday. Her employer accommodated her belief for over a year but then suddenly refused to and fired her. The woman ended up receiving $24,000 in a settlement. In other cases, no settlement is possible and the case goes to trial, but this happens rarely.
Contact Piccolo Law Offices if your employer refuses to make an accommodation based on your sincerely held religious beliefs, and you want to take action to protect your rights.
To learn more about employment discrimination generally, go here.