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Allen M., Esq.
Allen M., Esq., Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Employment/Labor Law Litigation
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Hi, We have a small manufacturing company (computer components).

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Hi,
We have a small manufacturing company (computer components). Our plant runs 24x7. We have 62 employees on the line. Our “break” policy permits staggered breaks but requires that no more than 8 employees take a break at any one time. With more than 8 on break, we couldn’t keep production going. Our recent hires have all been Muslim, and they’ve now asked for all of them to get a break at sundown for religious purposes. We’re non-union. What do we do? We’ve figured out from the internet that we need to deal with “title VII” (but we need to know which provisions) and a case called “Noble-Sysco” (but we need to know what it means for us). We’re in a small town where the lawyers don’t do this type of work. What do we do?
Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I look forward to assisting you today. I bring nearly 20 years of experience in various legal disciplines.

The issue is one of "reasonable accommodation." An employer is only required to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of its employees. That means that an employee that worships on Sunday can certain request that time off, if available, but if business needs don't allow it, the employer doesn't have to grant that request. The employer isn't required to cover that shift, close the shift down or just do without. Those aren't reasonable accommodations, but rather, unreasonable accommodations.

This is all the Nobel-Sysco" case really means for you. It simply means that the employer must determine whether or not they can reasonable accommodate the request. If there are sufficient employees to allow the Muslim employees to have a break at sundown, while the other employees cover that time, then great. Do that.

If, however, there are simply not enough other employees for that to work, they will have to work out amongst themselves their own rotation for those that can and can not have that break each day.

You won't find in the Title VII provisions anything so specifically spelled out. All it will say is that you can't discriminate based on religion. Case law is what has helped define what that actually means today.
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