Do you have an employee with a spotty attendance record who suddenly claims she can’t come to work on her day of worship? If so, make sure she isn’t just using religion as an excuse and really doing something else.
Employees can’t sue for denial of reasonable religious accommodations unless they prove three things:
- She has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an employment requirement
- She informed the employer of this belief and
- She was disciplined for not complying with the conflicting employment requirement.
Recent case: Helena belongs to a religion whose worship services take place on Fridays. When she missed a mandatory meeting on a Friday, her employer disciplined her.
She sued, claiming she was being denied a reasonable accommodation for her religious practices.
But it turned out that although she had a bona fide religious belief that required Friday worship and told her employer so, on this particular Friday she took off to care for a cousin and not to worship. Since she wasn’t punished for attending to her religious needs, the court said she wasn’t denied a reasonable accommodation. (Abdullah v. Pinnacle Health, et al., No. 9:12-CV-159, ED TX, 2013)
Final note: How do you find the real reason for an absence? You can certainly ask the employee. However, talk to your attorney before hiring a private investigator.
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