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Can You Get a Day Off for Religious Reasons in the United States?

November 21st, 2023

Workers do not have the freedom to simply take a day off whenever they feel like it, unless it is for valid religious reasons.

Everyone needs a day off once in a while. Work can become extremely stressful, and although 24 hours might not seem like a long time, it can help employees recharge. These days off might even make workers more productive in the long run, as they return from their breaks feeling refreshed and ready to contribute. That being said, workers do not have the freedom to simply take a day off whenever they feel like it. While there is nothing stopping them from doing this, they cannot really complain if it results in their termination. There is one exception, however, and this involves religious freedoms.

Two Workers Sue their Employers for Not Giving Them a Day Off

If a worker attempts to take a day off due to their religious faith, the employer must accommodate these requests. If they deny the requests, the employers may face legal consequences, including Civil Rights lawsuits. This was made adamantly clear after two companies in the United States were recently sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  

The first lawsuit was announced by the EEOC on October 12, 2023. The lawsuit targeted Landry’s LLC, which owned and operated a grill in Atlanta. The grill is now bankrupt, but the lawsuit continued against Landry’s. According to the EEOC, an employee at the grill requested to take Tuesdays off so that she could attend “worship services.” At first, the grill accommodated these requests and did not schedule her on those days. 

However, this policy suddenly changed in 2019 as New Year’s Eve approached. This year, NYE fell on a Tuesday, and the worker assumed that her religious accommodation would still be respected. However, the employer demanded that she work – despite giving other employees the day off. When she refused to work, the grill fired her. As a result of this lawsuit, Landry’s LLC will now have to pay the former employee $25,000. 

The second lawsuit involved a trucking company. On October 13, 2023, the EEOC announced that the trucking company had violated an employee’s civil rights when they forced him to work on Saturdays. This employee apparently had some kind of religious reason for taking Saturdays off, but his employer denied his requests and eventually fired him. In addition, the EEOC claims that the employee was subjected to harassment and discrimination based on his race and religion. Despite complaining about this treatment, the trucking company failed to act – even as the treatment became worse. 

The Religion Must Be Legitimate

It is worth mentioning that in order to request a day off based on your religious faith, you must choose a legitimate religion. In many cases, employee lawsuits have been dismissed because they cited religions that did not actually exist. While the definition of a religion can be somewhat vague in legal terms, there are many religions that accept people from all kinds of backgrounds, such as the Universal Life Church.

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