MEMBER ALERT!     The Justice Dept. just announced it settled a case where an employee had been denied leave to go on a religious pilgrimage.Ms. Khan, a school’s only math lab instructor, asked for leave to comply with the demands of her Islamic faith.  It was denied because the school had no one easily available to replace her as the semester came to an end in December and grades were due.  Ms. Khan had to resign and made the trip anyway. DOJ got her job back and more than $75,000 in damages.

“Employees should not have to choose between practicing their religion and their jobs,” said Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. He also made the point that employers are required to talk their problems over with employees and investigate all reasonable options before denying a request such as this.

If an employee has a bona fide religious belief that conflicts with work requirements, and informs the employer that it needs an accommodation to meet his/her religious demands, the employer is required to grant any reasonable accommodation that does not create an “undue hardship” on it. 

EEOC describes an undue hardship as one which, “may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.”  However, as can be seen in Ms. Khan’s case the hardship must be significant  or “undue” whether related to cost, efficiency, or safety.  EEOC has posted on its web site advice on how employers should consider schedule changes, reassignments, and employee substitutions or swaps, before denying a leave request related to a religious obligation. 

FEDSMILL does not want to mislead.  These cases can be harder to win than Ms. Khan’s case may make that seem. But your union can be a big help.  For example, it can put the issue before an arbitrator, paid with union member dues, rather than force you to endure the high costs of a federal trial.  See them for help. 

If you know someone who might benefit from this information, pass this story on to them.

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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