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Do You Get Time Off for Any Religious Holiday?

Christmas and manger scene with life size statues of Virgin Mary, Jesus Child, steer, donkey in a plaza.
By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

The holidays are here, and like many workers you may be wondering whether you get time off for any religious holiday.

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer for everyone. Instead, whether you get time off may depend upon your employer's policies, any employment contract, or a collective bargaining agreement.

Still, if some employees do get time off for a holiday like Christmas, other employees may be wondering whether they get similar time off for their own religious holidays.

First, there is no general requirement under state or federal law that provides that private employees must get time off to celebrate their religious holidays during December. This is true for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other holiday.

So in general, your employer can force you to work Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve, or any other day.

But the law gets tricky when your employer does have a policy to give time off for certain holidays like Christmas, but not others. In this case, an argument may be made that you should be entitled to time off to celebrate your religious holidays and that it would be discriminatory if you are denied.

In fact, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to "reasonably accomodate" an employee's religious practices, unless doing so would impose an "undue hardship" on the employer. Many employers use "floating holidays" to allow workers to take time off for religious days that don't appear on a company's official holiday schedule.

Still, you can't just make up a bogus religion to get some time off for extra shopping. Religion is pretty strictly defined, and a religious holiday is also narrowly defined. For example, you generally will have to prove that your religion is a bona fide religion as opposed to some way of life or something you just made up. Additionally, you will have to show that the day you are requesting off is actually considered a holiday in your religion.

If you have questions regarding taking time off work for your religious holiday, it is best to speak with an employment attorney. The determination is typically very fact-specific, and an experienced attorney can help evaluate your case.

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