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So the religion I follow does not permit working on our sabbath, which falls on Saturday. I specifically mentioned in my interview that there's no way I'd be able to work on Saturdays, but I didn't say that it was for religious reasons - I've always thought that it's best to not bring religion into the workplace, and up until now it hasn't been a problem.

Now my manager has decided that we'll all work next Saturday to complete some project. I've told them that I can't do it, and they've said that it will be required of us and cannot be missed for any reason. I'd much sooner lose this job than go against my religion, so that's what it's looking like will happen. I don't mind my job though, and it would be nice to not have this happen, so I'm hoping we can work this out. I think my manager has taken "I'm not available on Saturday" and "I won't be able to work on Saturday" to mean that I just don't want to, or I have some other more flexible plans. Would it be a good last resort to mention that I'm not able to do this for religious reasons, or should I just turn in my notice?

Note: I'm not interested in getting into a debate about my religion, or sharing more specifics about it, both with my manager and with this online group. I'll just leave both if it comes to that.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Sep 18 at 15:34
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If this is in the U.S., it would be against federal law to require that you (a religious adherent) work on the Sabbath.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on religion... an employee needs accommodation of a religious belief that working on his Sabbath is prohibited

https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/what-you-should-know-workplace-religious-accommodation

I recommend that you first secure written documentation (e.g., copy of an email) of the requirement to work on Saturday. Then inform your employer, in writing, of the need for religious accommodation. If they refuse, then you would seem to have a very strong legal case for a violation of federal Title VII.

Noted in comments: A recent U.S. court ruling apparently set some restrictions on this protection of which you might want to be aware:

https://www.poynerspruill.com/thought-leadership/employers-not-required-to-guarantee-employees-will-never-be-scheduled-on-religious-sabbaths/

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Sep 21 at 11:07
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I'd much sooner lose this job than go against my religion

Would it be a good last resort to mention that I'm not able to do this for religious reasons?

Yes, mention it. Clearly you have nothing to lose by stating your religious requirements. Remind your manager that you stated during the interview process that you cannot work on Saturdays, and tell them that you said this due to religious reasons.

At best, they will understand and make an exception for you. Perhaps you can work on Sundays, rather than Saturdays.

At worst, they will require you to work on Saturdays, at which point you will find a new job.

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    I think the worst case scenario is that OP is seen negatively by their coworkers for not pulling in on a Saturday with the rest of the crew. While the law is definitely on their side, provided they disclose the religious affiliation, it's that kind of thing that may cause them to be an outcast. I doubt that's going to factor in too heavily seeing as OP says they'd sooner lose the job, but it is a consideration. – Malisbad Sep 18 at 0:38
  • @AsteroidsWithWings It would absolutely be better if management were forced to fix their processes, but that's for a perfect world. I don't know where you live, but around here, a lot of companies are far from perfect. – Mast Sep 19 at 11:06
  • @Mast I mean literally if everybody refuses not to do extra work they are not contractually required to do, then change will happen, I can guarantee you that. – Asteroids With Wings Sep 19 at 12:03
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    @AsteroidsWithWings Yes, but it doesn't work if some do tolerate it. Not everyone can afford to lose their job over such principles so the mess will continue. Unfortunately. – Mast Sep 19 at 12:06
  • @Mast: Correct! – Asteroids With Wings Sep 20 at 17:37
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Would it be a good last resort to mention that I'm not able to do this for religious reasons, or should I just turn in my notice?

Yes, by all means tell your manager the real reasons why you can't work on Saturdays.

To be honest you should have told them this earlier (I would have done it since asked if I could work Saturdays), so they don't think that you were saying that just because you are lazy or whatever other reason they could think of.

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    It was clearly mentioned that Saturdays were not possible in the interview, by employing the person then management have tacitly agreed to that. Perhaps this is typical management deafness... – Solar Mike Sep 17 at 8:34
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    @SolarMike Agreed, but there is a slight difference between "I can't come in on Saturdays because I have football practice" in which case a reasonable manager might feel justified asking if it's a genuine emergency whilst avoiding asking the rest of the year, and "I can't come in on Saturdays because my religion forbids it" in which case a reasonable manager will understand that they can't ask period. – Jon Bentley Sep 17 at 14:37
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    @SolarMike exactly. OP didn't disclose reasons, and the problem now is that management is assuming things about the nature of OP not being able to work saturday. – DarkCygnus Sep 17 at 17:04
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    Also just want to point out, mentioning it in the interview is the absolute minimum. It should also be restated in further written communication with the business as a condition of employment. That is something that can be referenced at a later stage. – Gregory Currie Sep 18 at 15:26
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Yes let you manager know, and propose to catch up on work on a Sunday or after hours instead (not that I recommend over-time, but this is to emphasize that you want to work and help the team and not be seen as trying to 'skip' out.)

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    It seems that (1) the purpose is to work on a project this Saturday, as it seems to be urgent or need to get up to date on the progress, so doing it another day seems that is not an option and (2) I may be wrong on this specific one but as far as I know during Sabbath OP can't travel, so staying friday over-hours seems to be not possible as well. And, if I'm not mistaken, we are nearing the Feast of trumpets and AFAIK Sabbath extends for a day more on this special occasion... seems that OP really can't work this weekend – DarkCygnus Sep 17 at 3:12
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    @DarkCygnus It'll depend on the exact nature of OP's religion (OP doesn't specify). For example, probably Seventh Day Adventism is different from Orthodox Judaism on this point – OmarL Sep 17 at 9:43
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    @DarkCygnus The OP said next Saturday not this Saturday (granted that in some English speaking regions the meaning of next Saturday can differ). The spirit of the answer is still applicable even if the specifics may not be. For example OP could do some morning/evening hours during the week, work this Sunday (if we're talking about Saturday next week), etc. – Jon Bentley Sep 17 at 14:42
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Absolutely, tell your manager.

As stated in other answers, doing so will entitle you to protection. Your employer should not be doing this.

Also, if they choose to remove you from your job, then on your next job hunt, you can explain that you took your religion that seriously. Many people who are employers will solidly respect that, even if they feel that they do not believe religiously themselves. However, if, during the interview, it is said that you left voluntarily and you never even explained to your employer that the purpose is religious in nature, then I think many people would question that judgement call. (Which is not great for a job interview.)

Personally, I've had a round with an employer where I tried working a bit on the Sabbath (using the whole sheep-in-a-ditch philosophy, and that my employer was societal "infrastructure" which my pastor taught me was in line with Sabbath). However, my employer utilized that as a standard work day, and I quickly found that my emergency role turned into 14 hour days. So I said no. And my employer cooperated. Although did ask me multiple times (I think seven different times) if I could just be scheduled on occasion.

So, your mileage may vary based on your employer. But definitely share.

And, if you expect things to not go smoothly, share in a trackable "written" form, like an E-Mail. Which you (blind) carbon-copy yourself. Or if you can't, which you print out. But keep a copy of what you say, as such records have potential to be more useful than your claims based on your (perhaps biased) memories.

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  • @Acccumulation In small companies, it's not at all unusual for a particular person not to be replaceable, at least not for immediate needs (long term, of course, most people are replaceable.) As an engineer at a small company, for better or for worse, there are lots of things that only one of us knows how to/is able to do on short notice. Longer term, of course, someone else could figure it out. – reirab Sep 20 at 0:00
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If you're reluctant to discuss it with your manager, the alternatives depend on your company, but there's likely someone at HR (perhaps D&I) you can discuss it with. Ask them what the procedures are for dealing with a manager making requests that conflict with your religion. It's quite likely that an option would be for HR to simply tell your manager something along the lines of "You are not to require this employee to work on Saturdays for reasons they request remain confidential."

There is however a danger, especially if this turns into an official case, that your manager may resent you "going over their head". If your only concern is reluctance to "bring religion into the workplace", it's perfectly reasonable to bring up religion with respect to how it's affecting your availability. This isn't proselytizing, it's simply making your employer aware of relevant life circumstances.

You definitely should not voluntarily quit. It's quite doubtful that you would be fired for not working on Saturdays, and you should should give them a chance to prove it. When someone gives you terms you have a problem with, you should discuss and negotiate, not just walk away. And if you do quit, it would seriously impair not only any unlawful termination case, should you wish to pursue it, but also unemployment insurance (there is some case law holding that unemployment can be claimed if the person is out of work due to employers being unwilling to make religious accommodations).

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