You can’t just use a blanket statement (e.g., “granting time off will be expensive”) to deny a request for religious accommodation. You must be prepared to show the actual cost of the accommodation. That’s true even if giving someone the Sabbath day off means having to hire another employee to cover the time.
Bottom line: An employee is entitled to time off to practice his or her religion, and it’s the employer’s burden to show how giving that time off will incur more than a minimal cost.
Recent case: Maryland Ford is a Seventh-day Adventist who worships on Saturdays. She wanted the city of Dallas to exempt her from Saturday work. But the city denied her request, arguing that it would have to create a new position to accommodate her religious needs. It reasoned that logic dictated a new position naturally would be a cost that was more than de minimis, and the law therefore didn’t require the city to even consider Ford’s request.
Not so, ruled the federal court. Employers are required to prove the cost of accommodation—they can’t just say it’s obvious. (Ford v. City of Dallas, No. 3:05-CV-1676, ND TX, 2007)