Boss can require work on Sabbath but should try for accommodation


September 21, 2005|By CARRIE MASON-DRAFFEN

I am a bank customer-service employee who works three days a week. My supervisor wants me to expand my days to include Saturdays, but I observe the Sabbath. Can the bank force me to work that day? State and federal statutes that prohibit religious discrimination require some form of accommodation, within reason.

"There is a requirement to accommodate under Title VII," said Louis Graziano, a senior trial attorney in the Manhattan office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which enforces Title VII and other federal anti-bias statutes.

Generally, companies with at least 15 employees fall under Title VII. State human rights laws cover smaller businesses.

The law does provide exceptions for employers. For example, an employer doesn't have to grant an accommodation if it causes an economic hardship, Graziano said.

So if a bank has just three tellers, providing an accommodation would be difficult, Graziano said. "Then it becomes her choice whether she can work under those circumstances or not," Graziano said.

The accommodation can take more than one form, he said. For example, you could arrange to switch with a co-worker - with the bank's approval, of course. Or you can ask the bank to help you.

He said, "The employer has a requirement to at least try, and if they don't, they can get themselves into trouble."

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday.

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