The Key Is Religious Reasonableness
Sometimes, religious holidays and practices can have an impact on the workplace. When that happens, all parties must act reasonably. The question in this area of benefits law always seems to boil down to reasonableness.
The way this often plays out in the work force is that an employer makes a request of an employee either to work on a day reserved for a holy observance, or the employer asks that the employee perform a task in violation of some religious belief or requirement.
Under Oklahoma benefit law, an employee must act reasonably by making the employer aware of the conflict. If time off is required, the employer must make a reasonable accommodation to the employee’s religious beliefs. The employee must act reasonably by giving adequate notice to the employer of the request for time off. And, the restrictions must be based on the requirements and beliefs of the religion rather than merely on the personal desires of the employee.
Case Law: Often A Question of Reasonableness
Benefits were allowed in a case in which the employee was terminated for his refusal to work on Sundays for religious reasons. Two prior warnings had been issued to the employee. It was held that the employee’s refusal did not amount to misconduct. Unemployment law may not be applied to require a worker to abandon his religious conviction regarding the day of rest. (84 AT 9078; 84 BR 2448)
However, benefits were denied when an employer had twice posted a calendar for employees to schedule time off and vacations. Both times, the employee failed to schedule time off for himself on the calendar and so his vacation was scheduled for him. It was only after this that the employee asked for a particular week off for religious purposes. It was denied him. When he failed to appear, he was discharged. It was held that the employee had plenty of time to schedule his time off and failed to do so. Honoring the employee’s request at this point in time would have caused undue hardship for the rest of the employees in the workplace. (81 AB 143)
This next case is illustrative regarding the difference between personal desire of the employee and religious requirement. In this case, an employee asked for the Saturday before Easter off to prepare lamb for the holiday. Even though the employee had gotten this time off before, on this occasion, the employer refused. The employer made it clear that if the employee did not appear that he would be fired. He failed to appear, and was discharged. It was held that the desire to cook the lamb was only a personal desire and not a requirement of the religion, and so his refusal to appear for work was an act of willful misconduct. Benefits were not allowed. (76 AT 4098; 79 BR 1110)
Small facts can impact the question of reasonableness in any given case. If you are wondering about benefits in your situation, it is best to bring your questions and concerns to an experienced Oklahoma benefits expert as soon as possible. Only an experienced benefits lawyer can evaluate all issues particular to your case. Call us now.
Free Legal Consultation With An Experienced Oklahoma Unemployment Attorney in Tulsa
We want to help you. Don’t go this one alone. We will work for you and protect your benefits to the best of our ability.