In anticipation of a potentially challenging workplace situation due to this year’s unique Yom Tov calendar, Agudath Israel of America has released a guide to religious rights in the workplace.
Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succos will all take place during September, requiring religious Jews to take off many work days over the course of the calendar month. Such employees “should be aware of their legal rights to be absent from work for religious observance,” said Rabbi Mordechai Biser, Agudath Israel’s general counsel, “which is why we felt it appropriate to publish this guide at this time.”
According to Rabbi Biser, Agudath Israel has a long history of advocating for the rights of observant employees to have their religious observances accommodated in the workplace.
“We helped draft and successfully advocate for passage of laws in New York, New Jersey, and elsewhere that require employers to accommodate employees who need to take time off for religious reasons. As a matter of fact, New York State now has the toughest law in the country on this point.”
According to the law, employers generally have a responsibility to offer employees a reasonable method of fulfilling their duties that is not in conflict with their religious principles. And while the law states that employers are not required to incur undue hardship for the sake of such accommodation, the burden of proving such hardship is on the employer.
The guide includes practical guidance, with a special question and answer section providing legal advice to common questions concerning religious workplace employee rights and obligations.
For those who feel that their employer is not making a good faith effort to address their concerns, the guide also includes a sample letter created by Agudath Israel of America that can be shown to an employer that explains an employee’s rights and the employer’s obligations under the law.