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Can I be forced to be "on-call/standby" on the Sabbath Texas

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  • Can I be forced to be "on-call/standby" on the Sabbath Texas

    I work for a large state agency and am required to be on-call (standby) outside of my normal work hours every 4-6 weeks. I am on-call for a week at a time. There is always other persons who are also on-call during this same time and my agency has hundreds of employees in the same area I work. I am wanting to request to be off of the on-call schedule on the Sabbath, which is Sunday for me but wanted to know if my request that out of the ordinary and should I expect it to be denied? Also if there is any case law on this? Just for further information I do not work for police/fire/ems or the military.

    Thanks in advance for the feedback.

  • #2
    It is going to depend on your specific circumstances. Here is what the EEOC states on religious accommodation:

    "Religious Discrimination & Reasonable Accommodation

    The law requires an employer or other covered entity to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operations of the employer's business. This means an employer may be required to make reasonable adjustments to the work environment that will allow an employee to practice his or her religion.

    Examples of some common religious accommodations include flexible scheduling, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignments, and modifications to workplace policies or practices....

    An employer does not have to accommodate an employee's religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation 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."


    That said, the question is can the employer prove it will cause more than a minimal burden and is it a reasonable adjustment? Does it cause other employees to have to do more than their share --i.e. another employee would have to work on-call for 8 days and you only have to do 6? It might if a lot of employees have asked for the same accommodation. It is very possible your employer has encountered this request in the past since Sundays are a very common day to request off due to religious beliefs. It might if they have had issues with allowing it in the past and can show prior burden in making their decision. So there is not one specific right/wrong answer unfortunately.

    You might consider offering some type of accommodation in return (although you aren't required to do so). Such as doing an extra 6 day week of call to make up for being unavailable on the 7th day OR taking a day of call from whoever has to cover for you on a Sunday, if that is even possible. I've found employees that try to help the employer work through their accommodations rather than demand them are easier to work with in finding a solution that works for both sides. They can't retaliate for you asking for an accommodation or taking one though.

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    • #3
      Agreed. Also case law is MUCH more likely to consider several hours off for worship services then taking the entire day. And the courts historically are more likely to say an Orthodox Jew is required to actively observe the entire day then say a Catholic. There is a huge burden of proof on the employee to prove that pretty much everyone of their particular faith routinely must take the whole day off.
      "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
      Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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