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Time Off Work for Religious Observances


Under the federal Title VII anti-discrimination statute, employers must allow employees time off for religious observances as long as such accommodation is “reasonable” and does not impose an “undue hardship” upon the employer.

Federal, and most state laws, require that employers make a “bona fide effort” to accommodate an employee’s religious observances. This means that when an employee notifies an employer that their work schedule conflicts with their religious observance, the employer is obligated to consider the request and attempt to find a means for granting it.

You MUST give your employer appropriate notice of your request per their workplace policies for requesting a leave of absence, ideally, you should request it in writing.

An employer may refuse a request for “undue hardship” which is an accommodation that imposes “more than de minimus” — or minimal — burden on the employer’s operations. It all depends upon ones specific employment role.

Typical scheduling accommodations include:

Adjusting an employee’s schedule
Arranging shift swaps with other employees
Permitting an employee to utilize paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave
Permitting an employee to take unpaid leave
Refraining from assigning attendance points for the absence


Sample Letter


City, State, Zip Code

RE: Accommodation for Religious Belief and Practice

Dear (HR Person's Name):

I am writing this letter to request a schedule that would accommodate my religious observance of [Event].  As a member of [Name of Church] I must abstain from all secular work during [Event]. I would greatly appreciate your giving my request due consideration for a scheduling accommodation so that I may observe it without having to make the choice between faithfulness to God and keeping my job.

In 2015, the Supreme Court clarified the requirements of Federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e. The Supreme Court held that employers cannot make a worker’s need for religious accommodation “a motivating factor” in an adverse employment action, such as termination. The Court explained that a company must do more than simply follow its religion neutral employment policies, it must make affirmative efforts to provide religious accommodation, even giving the employee who needs accommodation “favored treatment”.

I am confident that you will be able to arrange a suitable accommodation, and that when you do so, you will secure my loyalty and dedication to be the best employee I can be. A respect for God’s authority will also translate into the best interests for the company.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation with this request.


(Your Name)

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