Ramadan 2022 is Here: Do I Qualify for a Religious Accommodation?

Employment Lawyer Rasha Zeyadeh

Texas Employment Lawyer Rasha Zeyadeh

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is observed by 1.6 billion people around the world. Practicing Muslims will be fasting from dawn until dusk (approximately 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.) beginning on April 2, 2022 and ending on May 2, 2022. Fasting means no food or liquid of any kind. Yes, that includes water! Ramadan is meant to be a time of spiritual discipline – of deep contemplation of one’s relationship with God, extra prayer, increased charity and generosity, and intense study of the Quran. It is a joyous month meant to be shared and celebrated with loved ones.

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the five pillars – or duties – of Islam, along with the testimony of faith, prayer, charitable giving, and making a pilgrimage to Mecca. The practice of fasting is intended to be a reminder of human frailty and dependence on God for sustenance. It reduces the distractions of life to allow time to focus on our relationship with God. Importantly, it provides an example of the hunger and thirst the poor experience, which is intended to encourage empathy for and charity to the less fortunate.

During Ramadan, it is not unusual for Muslims to be up past midnight for prayer and then get up around 5 a.m. to eat the first meal of the day, which must last until sunset. This means lots of high-protein food and drinking as much water as possible until dawn, after which we cannot eat or drink anything. At dawn, Muslims will perform their first prayer of the day, followed by four additional mandatory prayers throughout the day and an optional late-night prayer, which is typically only preformed during Ramadan. Many Muslims, myself included, are typically more devoted to their prayers during this month and try to set time aside throughout their day to timely complete each of the five scheduled daily prayers. For me, that means blocking time on my work calendar to ensure I am not scheduled for meetings or appointments during the various prayer times that fall within work hours.

Muslims are not supposed to avoid work or school or any other normal duties during the day just because we are fasting. For the most part, Muslims go about their daily business as we normally would, despite not being able to eat or drink anything the whole day. In many Muslim countries, however, businesses and schools may reduce their hours during the day or close entirely. In western countries, like the United States, Muslims don’t receive any accommodation like reduced work hours during the month of Ramadan.

With that being said, however, it is important note that there are state and federal laws that require certain employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s closely held religious belief or practice, unless doing so would cause more than a minimal burden on the operation of the employer’s business. This means an employer may be required to make adjustments that will allow an employee to practice his or religion. Some examples of religious accommodation include flexible work schedule, voluntary shift substitutions or swaps, job reassignment, and modification to workplace policies or practices.

If your employer employs 15 or more employees, under both the Texas Labor Code and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is required to accommodate your religious beliefs or practices if doing so would not cause it any undue hardship. For Muslims during Ramadan some examples of accommodation include flexible schedules to allow you time to perform your prayers or to allow you to start work later or end work earlier, frequent breaks throughout the day to allow you time to regain strength or leave for religious observance of Eid al-Fitr (this is what we refer to as our “Christmas.”)

You are not alone. If you need help seeking a religious accommodation, regardless of your religion, feel free to contact my office and schedule a time to speak with me.

Ramadan Kareem to all my Muslim friends and family. May this holy month bring you an abundance of blessings!

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