February 2014 HR Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser Courtesy of EPLI Pro™

You Have to Give Me the Day Off!

An employee informs you that he has just converted to a new faith. His new faith prohibits him from working on Xday. He tells you that he’ll be in need of a religious accommodation starting this Xday and from now on.

You reply, “Wait, you agreed to cover that day when I hired you; if you’re not available, I’ll have to pay overtime which I can’t afford.”

He replies, “It’s required by my faith.”

What should you do?

A.  Require him to bring you written proof from a religious authority, that he’s a member of this new faith, and that his faith requires him not to perform any work on Xday.

B.  Grant the request – you have no choice!

C.  Talk to him to see if there’s another option, other than not reporting to work, that would allow him to satisfy his religious belief.

D.  Deny the request.

Answer: C     Federal law and many state laws require employers to reasonably accommodate a “bona fide religious belief or practice”, unless doing so would cause undue hardship. You should look for ways that you can accommodate, rather than having your initial response be that it’s an “undue hardship” or not possible.

Unlike many leave regulations, there’s no right to confirmation of a “bona fide religious belief or practice”, nor does it have to be a mainstream religion. So you may not ask for written  confirmation.

You need to talk with your employee and determine what it is that his faith requires. If you determine that there are other ways to accommodate his needs rather than just taking the whole day off then you should propose those to him and discuss the options. Maybe he can trade shifts with any qualified employee who voluntarily agrees to cover your shift without requiring the business to incur overtime expenses. In the end, you need to accommodate him.

Explore the alternatives, and seek the advice of a human resource professional or employment law attorney if you have questions.

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