Ask the BPHR Advisor: Religious Observances

Ask the BPHR Advisor: Religious Observances 600 401 Balance Point Team

BPHR’s Director Lisa Salcido, SPHR, SHRM-SCP provides answers to your pressing HR questions.

Question: We’ve had a manufacturing schedule change and now production requires that we operate during weekend hours. An employee has requested Saturdays off due to his religion. How should we handle this? We need him on Saturday.

Answer: You are obligated to make reasonable accommodations for your employees’ religious observances. As an employer with over 15 employees, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to your organization and protects workers from specific employment discrimination including based on religion. Title VII and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) requires reasonable accommodation of employees’ sincerely held religious beliefs, observances and practices when requested.

A reasonable religious accommodation is any adjustment that will allow the employee to comply with their religious beliefs. Employers should work with employees who need to adjust their work schedule to accommodate their religious practices by offering flex scheduling, voluntary shift changes or job transfers.

Employers must attempt to make accommodations unless doing so would create an “undue hardship,” defined as a more than minimal cost or burden on the employer. Be careful when determining if your employee’s request to be off on Saturday would truly pose an undue burden. Determinations of what constitutes an undue hardship are made on a case-by-case basis and the burden of proof falls on the employer to demonstrate the actual cost or hardship the request would cause.

For example, if you have another employee that is willing to pick up that Saturday shift, but those hours would require you to pay overtime compensation, generally that cost would not constitute an undue hardship. If the absence of this employee on Saturday would conflict with a legally mandated security requirement, then you may be within your rights to deny the request if there is no alternate accommodation available.

“Reasonable accommodation” and “undue hardship” are relative terms, each requiring a thorough analysis but it is your obligation to make every possible effort to accommodate religious requests.

Take a More Balanced Approach to HR with BPHR

With BPHR, an HR Generalist will integrate within your organization and can advise you when sensitive, employee-related issues arise. With these worries out of the way, your can focus on more strategic tasks. Schedule your free phone consultation today to learn how your organization can benefit from BPHR.

Have a question for Lisa? Email her directly.

DISCLAIMER: The material presented on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion. 

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