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Court rules on accommodating religious holidays.

Court rules on accommodating religious holidays

The Supreme Court held that Federal law gives employers latitude in accommodating the religious beliefs of workers by changing work schedules and leave policies. Writing for the 8-member majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said that an employer must make a "reasonable" effort to accommodate a worker's religious beliefs but need not accept the worker's suggestions on how to attain the accommodations.

The case arose when an Ansonia, CT, teacher requested permission to use three annual paid personal business days for religious holidays, although the labor contract specifically prohibited such use. The school maintained it had fulfilled its contractual obligation by giving the teacher three unpaid days off. (The employee's three other annual religious holidays were covered by a provision giving all employees three paid days off for unspecified holidays of their choice.)

In the suit, the teacher claimed that the school system had violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, or religion.

In overruling the Federal court of appeals, the Supreme Court held that the lower court should have considered whether the school officials' decision was reasonable, rather than finding that the teacher's suggestion was valid because it did not impose "undue hardship" on the school system. In the majority opinion, the Justices said that the officials' decision was, in fact, reasonable.

Justices Thurgood Marshall and John Paul Stevens dissented, in part, from the majority.
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Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Mar 1, 1987
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