In the new Louisville Business First Legal Forum Column, BGD attorney Sasha Litvinov discussed mandatory overtime policies. Read his advice below and don’t miss our monthly Legal Forum Column in Louisville Business First.

Topic

My business relies on its mandatory overtime policy to meet unanticipated customer demands, but some employees say they can’t work at certain times due to their religious beliefs. Must they be given special treatment when everyone else has to work?

Advice

As with most legal questions, the answer is: it depends. Under federal and state law, an employer is generally required to accommodate an employee who’s sincerely held religious beliefs conflict with a work requirement. Common work requirements under fire include mandatory overtime policies, dress codes or grooming standards.

Employers need to know that it's possible to violate the law even if the policy on its own is completely neutral (i.e., applies to all employees equally regardless of religion). However, an employer can enforce its work requirements if accommodating the employee would create an "undue hardship." In practical terms, an undue hardship exists if an employer can demonstrate that an accommodation would result in more than minimal extra costs or administrative burdens.

If presented with this kind of issue, an employer has the right to request proof of the employee's religious beliefs; a letter from a church or religious minister often suffices. If you believe accommodating the employee presents a significant burden to your operations, consider getting advice from counsel that focuses on the specific circumstances of your business.