Today marks Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and one of the holiest days of the Jewish year.
But it’s a day of business to many.
What should employers be doing for employees, though, that are celebrating the day?
There are actually a few different ways to answer the question.
The first answer, looking just at the legal obligations, is that the employer must provide an accommodation under Title VII.
But that standard is different than an ADA analysis.
Instead, 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.
Thus, giving an employee a day off to observe the holiday will, in many instances, be deemed to be a reasonable accommodation to the employee.
So that answers the legal obligation, but what else should an employer be doing?
Well, are you e-mailing that employee on their “day off”? Are you scheduling important meetings, even though you know that employee can’t attend?
Those things aren’t necessarily illegal.
And they aren’t always a bad idea either. Life moves on and conflicts are inevitable.
But a bit of sensitivity can help minimize those issues and some foresight can avoid the issue altogether.
I know that when a meeting gets scheduled, my own practice is just remind people of the holiday and leave it at that.
It happens. I just don’t get riled up about it
But I know others who when asked to attend something on holidays respond by saying: “How would you feel if I called you on Christmas?”
That only gets to part of the issue. Rather, pestering the employee out on a holiday, sends the wrong message to employees that their religious observances are something to be ignored. Meetings can go on but what can be put off for the day the employee is absent?
So before you decide to send multiple e-mails to your co-worker, or someone else observing the holiday, insisting on a response particularly when you know they don’t want to respond, think about the implications further. It really reflects more on you than them.
An e-mail is an e-mail.
Except when it means something more.