Thanksgiving and retail battles leave employees without many options

thanksgiving and employment law

With Thanksgiving comes the ultimate battle to see which retailer can be first to kick off Black Friday. It’s to the point now where it should be called Black Thursday or, as others lament, Black Thanksgiving, with plenty of holiday dinners interrupted for family members manning cash registers.

Despite the complaining, there’s not much legally that anyone can do. There’s no Wisconsin law that says private employers must provide holidays off nor must they provide paid days off. Many businesses run 365 days a year—and they require employees working nights, weekends and, yes, holidays to do so.

An exception to the rule is when it comes to religious beliefs, practices, or observances under our discrimination statutes. But before you get too excited, it is unlikely that your employer would give you time off to spend eating Thanksgiving dinner or going to grandma’s on Christmas Eve.  What your employer is required to do is to accommodate your ‘sincerely held’ religious belief, practice or observance unless doing so poses an undue hardship, that is more than a de minimis (a legal term for trivial or without merit), cost or burden.  Typical accommodations for holidays are scheduling changes, voluntary substitutions, and shift swaps.

The bottom line for employers is whatever your policy on holidays and paid time off, if you have a request for religious accommodation, you need to consider it under the framework above regardless of whether it is consistent with your religious beliefs.

And for employees, it means you’ll just have to reschedule that Thanksgiving dinner … or find a new job.

Thanksgiving and retail battles leave employees without many optionsBy Ellen Frantz, Partner, Johns, Flaherty & Collins. For an employment lawyer in La Crosse, call her at 608-784-5678.



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