13

I work in Israel for a large American company and will be traveling abroad to a conference for work.

The conference finishes on Friday, so most people will fly home on Saturday; but as an observant Jew, I will have to fly Sunday morning, requiring an extra night in the hotel.

As the extra expense will be incurred due to my religious observance, should I expect to cover that cost, or is it usual that the employer do so?

I want to attend the conference, so I'm prepared to pay for the extra night if that's what's appropriate.

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    Sabbath is Friday evening to Saturday evening. The first possible flight is Sunday. – ColBeseder Sep 18 '15 at 9:01
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    Voting to close, it's not really a topic for discussion. Ask them, either they will pick up the cost or they won't, it's company specific. My question is if you asked to go to the conference did it not occur to you that you would be into the Sabbath, so they'd have agreed to the cost when they booked? – The Wandering Dev Manager Sep 18 '15 at 10:41
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    I don't think this is a question about company-specific policy; the OP is asking whether and how to address the question, not what the policy is. – Monica Cellio Sep 18 '15 at 16:23
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    In case anyone is interested about what happened in my case: My HR department have dealt with this before and they treat it as a business expense. – ColBeseder Sep 20 '15 at 14:29
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    @TheWanderingDevManager the intention was to find out what the norm is. If you don't think that's clear, feel free to edit. – ColBeseder Sep 21 '15 at 18:44
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I have been in a similar situation. My employer was sending me to a conference that began Sunday morning; no Sunday-morning flight would get me there in time for the start and no Saturday-night flight left late enough after the end of Shabbat.

I explained the difficulty to my manager and asked to travel on Friday afternoon. (They'd assumed I would travel on Saturday, so the issue was one extra hotel night, same as for you.) I said I was willing to stay in a less-expensive hotel nearby, which I think demonstrated that I was willing to do some work or accept some inconvenience. (I did not offer to pay for it.) The expense was approved and my manager said not to bother changing hotels.

So my recommendation to you is:

  1. Know what your backup plan is if the answer is no. (Mine was to travel Sunday morning and miss the opening of the conference.)

  2. Explain the problem to your manager, who is presumably unaware of the problem. Even if he knows you observe Shabbat, he might not understand what that means -- that it has strict time limits and that its restrictions include travel.

  3. Ask if, given the circumstances, the company will pay for an extra room night. If you can offer any mitigation (different hotel, finding a cheaper flight to compensate, etc), do that. Make it clear that it's a request, not an expectation.

  4. If the answer is no, proceed with your backup plan.

Your company almost certainly doesn't have to provide this accommodation -- but they value you enough to employ you and send you to this conference and they may well see the small cost of a hotel-night as just part of the cost of doing business. It doesn't hurt to ask.

In case you're wondering, I went to a university Hillel for services, found local hospitality for meals, made suitable donations later, and didn't expense that.

10

Ask your manager (or whoever coordinates travel for your company). This isn't really a question of appropriateness. It will depend on your company's policies and may well depend on either American or Israeli employment laws.

I would wager that a multinational company that employs people in Israel would be pretty accustomed to accommodating this sort of religious requirement for employees that travel. I would expect that the company would probably have no problem covering the extra day (particularly when Sunday return flights tend to be less expensive than Saturday return flights). But that's not to say that your company's policies are less friendly.

7

Often times, flights that include a weekend turn out to be cheaper than others. Look it up and offer to take the cheaper flight in return for some extra nights in the hotel.

Other than that, it does not hurt to ask. For local law in Israel, you need somebody from home to answer you. Obviously, the US does not know such a law.

A belated Shanah tova.

  • The OP works in Israel. The company should certainly be aware of Israeli laws, no matter where in the world their headquarters are. They need to follow Israeli law for all their operations in Israel, and potentially some outside. – Ben Sep 19 '15 at 7:20
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    @Ben Israeli law does not enforce Shabbat; that's a matter of religious law, but Israel is a secular state (with a lot of religious people living in it). – Monica Cellio Sep 20 '15 at 3:53
  • I didn't expect the Israeli state to do so @Monica. My comment was in response to Ralph's suggestion that an American company operating in Israel will be completely unaware of Israeli law and that "somebody from home" needs to answer the question. – Ben Sep 20 '15 at 6:52
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    @Ben, that is not what I meant. I said that the US does not have such a law. Of course, a company operating in Israel would know whether Israel has such a law, but not necessarily enforce it. From Monica we now learned that no such law exists. – Ralph Rickenbach Sep 20 '15 at 12:11
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One problem here: you asked for "should".

The employer should pay for costs which were caused by your job. So definitely, he should pay for the flight, and it is definitely a reasonable move to be flexible in booking another flight - unless the costs are prohibitively high. In most companies where i worked it was not problem to ask for a later flight for personal business or even tourism on a weekend.

About paying the hotel: For me a religious reason is a personal reason, and you should bear that cost. I hope that your employer did not ask you about your religion when hiring you. This makes the whole question very much dependent if you clearly stated during the hiring/negotiation process that you are not available for travel during certain times, and if that was noted down. So unless some special exception to what normally should be expected was written down for you - or that this is an completely expected behavior (as far as i get it, even in Israel it is not), I think it would set a bad example for the employer to pay the hotel, for several reasons:

  • It would require the employer to know about the employees religion
  • The manager would have to decide if the religion in question is worthy of making exceptions for (think about pastafaris)
  • It would demoralize employees who are not religious. In my eyes the reason "I want to party on Friday and Saturday night in that city" is as valid as Sabbath, so if an employee asks for getting the hotel paid to party, it would have to be granted.
  • Making the employee choose between paying for an extra night's stay for a business trip or breaking a fundamental part of their faith sounds like a case for religious discrimination. – Llewellyn Jun 17 '18 at 10:47
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    @Llewellyn: no, the employer making a decision what is a "fundamental part of faith" is a case for religious discrimination. Religious faith has no other meaning than any personal opinion which you have in professional life. I am for example a pacifist, and it should not matter to my employer (consulting company) if that is religious or not. The important point is that i clearly stated that I will not work on certain types of defense projects when I was hired, and that was agreed and accepted. – Sascha Jun 17 '18 at 11:33
  • +1 Don't expect an employer to pay for the food for your imaginary invisible unicorn either. It is a personal decision. Time to toughen up and pay for your faith. – TomTom Jun 17 '18 at 16:12
0

Just an additional argument: You say you are working in Israel, so you are likely to work with many people who respect Sabbath, and they are likely to know that you are Jewish, and they would likely be offended if they knew that you, a Jewish person, is travelling home on Sabbath (while they wouldn't be offended at all if a Christian or Muslim or Hindu travelled home on the same day). That would damage your company's reputation in this particular place, so it is in their interest that you don't travel home on this particular day, so they should pay for your hotel.

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