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Is Denying Workers Time Off for Religious Holidays Considered Religious Discrimination?

By Dan Atkerson on April 03, 2015

This coming weekend boasts a bevy of religious holidays – Good Friday, the beginning of Passover and Easter Sunday. First, we’d like to extend our best wishes to those celebrating – for many, these holidays are some of the biggest of the year.

These holidays bring up an excellent question for our employment attorneys to answer – are employers required to grant employees time off to celebrate religious holidays?

The short answer is no. Private employers have no obligation to allow time off for these holidays. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa – your boss can ask you to come in on those days, despite your religious beliefs. However, this does not mean that it is wise for your employer to ask you to come in on a holiday – to do so may actually invite a religious discrimination case against it.

What Are the Laws Regarding Religious Holidays?

There are no state or federal laws giving employees time off for specific religious holidays. Any such mandate would likely violate the separation of church and state. Most employers will voluntarily give employees certain days off – Christmas is a big one – but when an employer gives some specific holidays off, they should also be open to provide time off for other, similar holidays. If a business allows Christmas off but not Hanukkah, for example, the business could be violating the religious rights of Jewish employees.

Religious discrimination in the workplace is a complex and nuanced issue. If you feel like your religious freedom is being infringed by holiday policies at your work, it would do you well to seek the services of an employment law attorney near you.

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