Employers must reasonably accommodate employees’ religious beliefs unless doing so would cause undue hardship.
Some employers take this to mean they get to decide what constitutes a genuine religious belief—and nix requests for time off for religious observances that don’t fit their definition. That’s legal blasphemy!
Generally, if an employee says something is a religious belief, it is. Therefore, it must be accommodated.
Recent case: Lois was a member of The Open Church and sometimes attended several services on Sundays and volunteered at the church. Lois arranged for a substitute to take her scheduled shift at work and requested the time off after her pastor asked all members to attend the Sunday groundbreaking of a new church building. Lois’ employer turned down her leave request.
She went to church anyway and was terminated. Lois sued, alleging religious discrimination.
Her employer argued that Lois wasn’t compelled by church doctrine to attend the groundbreaking and therefore her request wasn’t based on a bona fide religious belief.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said it wasn’t the employer’s role to judge whether Lois’ beliefs were sincere or whether the ground-breaking was an important religious event. Nor was it a hardship to let her attend since she had found a substitute and the employer had allowed another employee time off the same day to attend a parade. It said her lawsuit could proceed. (Davis v. Fort Bend County, No. 13-20610, 5th Cir., 2014)