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Azure Jane Lunatic (Azz) 🌺 ([personal profile] azurelunatic) wrote in [community profile] debunkingxian2011-05-03 02:19 pm
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Non-majority religious holidays in the work world!

This is not necessarily a specifically Christian issue, as much as it is an issue involving being a minority in the majority's space. In the US, when it comes to getting time off work, Christian holidays are treated as the default, and the holidays of other religions aren't figured into the work calendar unless there is a local majority of those religions.

I've seen other discussions of time-off-work holidays touch on these things, but I wanted to explicitly lay out the two major paradigms someone needing time off from work for a non-Christian holiday might be dealing with.

This is one of the cases where the non-Christian near-minimum-wage shift worker who is an interchangeable part in the system may be at an advantage compared to the non-Christian nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday worker.


Workplace hours tend to fall into two major categories: maximum-coverage (or peak-coverage), where the workplace is open either all the time, or as much of the time as possible to (cost-)effectively cover the majority of the time when the services of the place will be needed; and maximum-cooperation, which aims to get as many as possible of the people working together in the same place at the same time. (And then there's the much-sought-after maximum-productivity workplace, which doesn't have much in the way of time-of-day-sensitive external demands, and doesn't believe that everybody has to always be in the same place at the same time to work together, and declares that as long as all the work is getting done, people can set their own schedules.)


In a maximum-coverage workplace, the bad side is that sometimes you're going to get schedules that you're not at all happy with. Maybe you don't have a fixed schedule from week to week, or maybe you're on a fixed schedule at the wrong time of day for the rest of your lifestyle, and you can't easily get out.

The trouble with holidays and a maximum-coverage workplace is that usually it's got to stay open at least a little over or around a majority-culture holiday, and assuming the workplace has a statistically normal distribution, the majority of that workplace is going to also be majority-culture, and will want that time off to celebrate the holiday. Depending on the nature of the workplace, it might be slow enough to allow more time off (and thus less coverage) but then again, it might not.

In a workplace like this, low-status workers and key player workers who are members of the majority are likely to be inconvenienced, because there will likely be a scarcity of time-off slots compared to the people who want to take them.

In this setting, a minority-culture worker who does not personally have a holiday to have plans for, and does not have majority-culture friends/family/etc. whose plans include them, and who is not a key player who has to work will-they-nil-they, is at an advantage. Assuming workers are allowed to trade shifts (either informally, or as arranged by the scheduling department), a minority-culture worker can gain social capital by taking a shift that majority-culture workers really want off, at very little personal inconvenience. In some cases, there is even a bonus for this shift, to offset the inconvenience that a majority-culture worker would be experiencing in working it.

The minority-culture worker's own holidays are less likely to have incentives attached to the working of, but then, time-off slots at these specific times are less likely to be in demand. The minority-culture worker may have managed to get favor by being willing to work majority-culture holidays, making it easier for them to get their own holidays off without problems.

As disadvantages, it is less likely that the scheduling department will be automatically aware of the minority-culture holidays in the same way they would be majority-culture holidays. While there might be no shortage of other workers available to cover for the minority-culture worker's absence, there are more likely to be questions asked. This is particularly awkward when the worker is "in the closet" about their membership in the minority culture, or when the worker's planned activities for the day off don't fit the questioner's preconceived notions about what someone should do on this sort of day off. Actual questions I have been asked: "What are you doing in here today? It's the solstice! Shouldn't you be dancing naked or eating a baby?" (I had dropped by the office to check the internet because my home computer had died.) If they are known to to not be a member of the majority culture, they may be expected to cheerfully work the majority culture's holidays, even if they had plans themselves for that holiday. (For example, a pagan child of a Christian household may have their family expect that they will spend the day with the family, not go to work.) If a minority-culture person has to work through their holiday, regardless of whether they wanted to or not, they will likely not get any bonus to offset the inconvenience.


In a maximum-cooperation workplace, everyone is more or less going to be issued the same basic days off, and be expected to be in the workplace at roughly the same time as everybody else. Here, regularly scheduled holidays are going to be organized around the holidays of the majority, and people celebrating minority-culture holidays may even be expected to use vacation or sick time to cover their holiday time off. Even if they are willing to work over the majority culture's holiday in exchange for having their own off, their job function may depend on the rest of the workplace being present and working, or the workplace may not even be open. If a minority-culture worker is "in the closet" about this status, they have less leverage to insist that they be allowed this day off, or may have to decide between remaining covert and possibly not getting the time off, and coming out in order to insist on the time off. If a worker is experiencing harassment related to their membership in a minority culture, their request for time off might be denied with an excuse, even though it would likely be illegal if proved to be connected if their minority is one protected from that sort of shenanigans by law.

There appear to be no advantages to celebrating minority-culture holidays in this sort of workplace.
elf: Smiling South Park-style witch with big blue floppy hat and inverted pentacle (Witchy)

[personal profile] elf 2011-05-03 11:02 pm (UTC)(link)
the holidays of other religions aren't figured into the work calendar unless there is a local majority of those religions.

Even when there's strong local support, they're often ignored. I work in downtown SF, and Chinese New Year is *big* in the city... but our job-scheduled days off ignore it. Since it's an international company, there's no allowance for the local office to change the "official" days off to something that actually suits local business.

And, of course, asking for an uncommon day off for religious reasons, while legal, can get a person fired. I found links, mostly on Pagan sites; the original news articles are no longer available.

US FDA, 2001: Jewish woman, fired for poor performance, sued claiming discrimination--they didn't give her enough time off on Fridays to pick up bread for religious purposes; judge ruled that she had time earlier in the week. (Privilege in action: "inconvenience doesn't count as discrimination.")

U.S. Surgical Inc., 2005 (another article): Wiccan fired for requesting holidays off.

Crawford & Company Inc., 2006: Another

Bath & Body Works, 2008: and another.

Illinois school district, 2008: Muslim fired for taking time for the hajj.
elf: Smiling South Park-style witch with big blue floppy hat and inverted pentacle (Witchy)

[personal profile] elf 2011-05-04 12:27 am (UTC)(link)
There's more!

Leeds Muslim Post workers refused time off for Eid; a spokeswoman "refused to comment on this particular case or whether the management had failed to plan for Eid this year, or whether they had made a deliberate decision to attempt to force Muslims to work."

Council Votes for Two Muslim School Holidays, about NY schools: The mayor told reporters before the vote that not all religions could be accommodated on the holiday schedule, only those with “a very large number of kids who practice.”... The current school calendar recognizes major Christian and Jewish holy days like Christmas and Yom Kippur, but no Muslim holy days.

Fair Game, about school sports & religious holidays. "OSAA has for decades enforced rules banning competition on Sunday, the day of rest observed by the state's largest Christian faith, the Roman Catholic Church, and its second-largest, the Mormons."

Jewish officer fights dismissal: A disciplinary board concluded that "the department had been flexible in permitting Corporal Brown the use of available leave when staffing allowed" and to "seek alternative scheduling to fulfill his religious observations." The board said Brown failed to "seek the voluntary exchange of days off with other officers" and his absences "left the department to force other officers to cover his work shifts." [Because, of course, wanting Friday evenings off is weird and inconvenient, not like wanting Sundays off.]

EEOC Sues on Behalf of Nearly 200 Somali Muslims Who Claim Religious Harassment, Termination From Meatpacking Plants: "JBS Swift allowed the Muslim employees to alter their meal breaks for two days in order to accommodate the month-long Ramadan, according to the Colorado court documents. But on the third day, a Friday, the meal break was reverted back to its original schedule."

And this is so cute: eHow's How to Get the Day Off for Yom Kippur: "... ask about the company policy regarding taking time off for the Jewish holidays."

(Someday, I will do massive linkspammy roundups on dozens of religious-discrimination topics. In the meantime, I do occasional google crawls.)
herlander_refugee: My tattoo'd back to the world (Default)

[personal profile] herlander_refugee 2011-05-03 11:41 pm (UTC)(link)
I wish, that instead of the lockstep paid "Big Four" ....Christmas, New Years, 4th of July, and Thanksgiving....people could SELECT at least two of the four...any day of any religious tradition that they desired. It would be ON their personnel records and they could, in those jobs that are still open those days, work one of those days instead of the chosen holiday.

It seems like it would be so sensible to manage that way. Likewise for Christian holidays that they might get if they don't want...why not a simple substitution?

I know, too sensible. No frothing. And the entire thing is predicated on people not being jerks about "unusual" religions.
herlander_refugee: My tattoo'd back to the world (Default)

[personal profile] herlander_refugee 2011-05-03 11:53 pm (UTC)(link)
And all that explains the occasional temptation to use more than an "accessibility" bat....
delight: (Default)

[personal profile] delight 2011-05-04 12:20 am (UTC)(link)
I admit, I'm grateful for the one advantage being a second-generation American Jew in healthcare provides, and it's this one. There are millions of ways in which I am erased day in and day out, but here I prosper.

Because I'll happily work December 24th and 25 -- they're not holidays to me. Happily work Thanksgiving -- it isn't either. I will probably happily work Easter unless I have to be at a seder that night. Some places provide time and a half for those days, too.

But oh god forbid I try not to go to (nursing) school on Yom Kippur. I could get expelled for skipping. We don't get any Jewish holidays off.

(I went to public grade school, and for some reason, we did get Jewish holidays off. I was oh so spoiled back then.)