The law is clear employers must make reasonable accommodations with respect to religious beliefs, practices or observances of which they are aware, subject to a narrow undue hardship defense. Easy to state but sometimes harder to apply.
For example, is goat killing leave a reasonable accommodation? Uh, maybe!
Here’s the background. An employee’s father died. The employee said he needed to travel to Nigeria for the funeral. He said that he believed that if he did not perform certain rituals, his siblings would die, too.
What were the rituals? Slaughtering 5 goats.
The employer said the time away was too long and denied the request. Employee sued.
The employer won at the trial court. But, on appeal, the case was sent back to the trial court to see if funeral leave was a reasonable accommodation.
The appellate court said the reference to funeral ritual was enough to put employer on notice that the funeral leave may have been for religious reasons.
Should an employer really have to ask if the funeral ritual is religious? A bit intrusive?
What if employee wanted a month off? Would that be unreasonable? If yes, where do we draw the line?
And does slaughtering one of God’s creatures not for food or warmth but for sacrifice play any role in this? What if the employer’s religious beliefs are that animal sacrifice is wrong?
Could we all agree ritual murdering is an undue burden?
Since that is not going to happen, if an employee asks for time off because of death, listen carefully as to why
They want time to be with loved ones? Feel free to say No
They want time to kill goats? Say No at your peril
When we extend the law to extreme, we trivialize its protections.
And so the court did.