Does an employer need to accommodate an employee's request for time off for religious reasons?

Yes. In most cases under Title VII as well as under most state laws, an employer should grant a reasonable request for time off for religious reasons unless the time off will create an unreasonable or undue hardship for the employer.

In this context, undue hardship means that accommodating an employee's religious practices would require more than de minimis cost or burden. The following factors will be considered in determining whether a requested accommodation causes an undue hardship:

  • The size and nature of the employer's business;
  • The type and cost of the accommodation required; and
  • Notice of the requested accommodation.

An employer does not have to provide a religious accommodation that would violate a seniority system or collective bargaining agreement.

When an employee requests time off for religious reasons, an employer may want to consider offering the following as reasonable accommodations:

  • Flexible arrival and departure times;
  • Floating or optional holidays;
  • Flexible work breaks;
  • Use of lunch time in exchange for early departure;
  • Staggered work hours;
  • Permitting an employee to make up time lost due to the observance of religious practices;
  • Substituting workers;
  • Exchanging employee hours;
  • Planning flexible work schedules;
  • Transferring employees; and
  • Changing job assignments.