WHAT’S GOD GOT TO DO WITH IT? « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Office Holiday Survival Guide II: Respecting Employee Religious Practices

Christians and Jews hold far from a “monopoly” on December as a major holiday month.  Here is your end-of-the-year interfaith and cultural diversity line-up for 2010 (to the degree we could determine with a few Google searches):

Dec 1:                         Suijin-Matsuri – Shinto

Dec 2-9:                     Hanukkah – Jewish

Dec 7:                         Al-Hijra (New Year) – Islam

Dec 8:                        Bodhi Day – Buddhism

Dec 8:                        Immaculate Conception of Mary – Catholic Christian

Dec 12:                      Feast day – Our Lady of Guadalupe – Catholic Christian

Dec 12:                      Advent Fast Begins – Orthodox Christian

Dec 16:                      Ashura – Islam

Dec 16-25:               Posadas Navidenas – Hispanic Christian

Dec 21:                      Solstice (Yule) – Wicca/Pagan

Dec 25:                      Christmas – Christian

Dec 26:                      Death of Prophet Zarathushtra  – Zoroastrian

Dec 26-Jan 1:          Kwanza – African cultural celebration

Dec 31:                      Oharai – Shinto

Dec 31-Jan 4:          Maidyarem Gahambar – Zoroastrian

We suppose the “rap” on California is that a large enough office is likely to employ not only members of every group named above, but multiplicity of adherents to other spiritual groups and their equivalents, falling just short of the Church of Monday Night Football.  In this state as in all others, employers must be particularly keen in December to the proper fielding of religiously based requests for time away from the office.

Under the federal Civil Rights Act, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, and the equivalent laws of other states, businesses must seek to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s religious observances (including, by-the-way, the sincere parallel observances of atheists and agnostics) unless any feasible approval of the request for time off results in “undue economic hardship” for the company’s operations.

The law states that such “undue hardship” need only be more than “minimal” (Latin: de minimus). However, there is also the practical aspect.  Denying a request, no matter how extensive the disruption to the employer, could lead to a discrimination claim if not handled properly.

Moral, just in time for the holidays: When an employer is in doubt on whether to grant a religiously based request to be exempted from any workplace activity, it’s time to consult with a labor law attorney.