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Does religious accommodation mean paid leave?

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in Office Management,Payroll Management

Q. One of our exempt employees has requested a partial day off to attend a religious service and contends that she should be paid for this time off as a “religious accommodation.” Is she correct?

A. Both federal and state laws require employers to reasonably accommodate the religious beliefs of their workers. Thus, unless the worker’s absence creates an “undue hardship” for the company, she should be allowed to take the time off.

However, the law does not require that workers be paid for time off granted for religious reasons.

But this situation has an additional twist because of the worker’s exempt status. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employers may not deduct from the pay of an exempt employee for a partial-day absence without threatening his or her exempt status. Thus, you shouldn’t dock the employee’s salary for the partial-day absence.

On the other hand, you may debit a worker’s accrued time-off account—such as vacation or other paid time off—for a partial-day absence without jeopardizing his or her exempt status. Thus, you may be able to reasonably accommodate the worker’s religious beliefs (by providing her with the time off) and debit her accrued benefits account for the time away from work without jeopardizing her exempt status.

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