Work Life

My Employer Won’t Let Me Take Good Friday Off

JIM BERLUCCHI is the executive director of the Spitzer Center.

Q. I want to take time off for Good Friday, and my employer won’t let me. Don’t I have the right to do this under my freedom to practice my religion?

A. Only if your company has more than 15 employees. If so, you’re in luck (or rather in Providence). By law, companies must make reasonable accommodation for employees’ observance of religious holidays. If your company grants a certain number of paid personal days, you might choose that option for your Good Friday observance. If it doesn’t, your sole payback will be eternal. Not a bad deal.

While the law protects your right, it can be challenged. Would your absence on Good Friday cause an undue or severe hardship for your employer? For instance, might it have a damaging effect on the operation of the business, cause significant stress for other employees or create a safety hazard? Negative effects of that nature could be a basis upon which your employer could deny your request.

Beyond the legal issue, it would seem in the best interest of your employer to honor your request. You’re not requesting time off for the Hash Bash, or to place first in the Naked Mile. Religiously devout employees often hold to high moral standards that pay ethical dividends in the workplace. Employees with strong internal compasses can require less external monitoring.

You might want to take the opportunity to explain to your boss what Good Friday means to you, and how your Christian faith has an impact on your work performance. You’re obviously a valued employee and your faith is a big part of that package.

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