short answer Saturday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Can I require an employee to work on Christmas Eve?

I just hired a dental assistant, and after the hire she informed me that she will not work Good Friday or Christmas Eve. Our business is such that those happen to be busy days for surgery. I went to the employee with a compromise of only working a half day and she refused, stating it was part of her Catholic religion not to work at all. I grew up Catholic and I don’t recall any such privilege. If I let this employee off on those days, I believe my other employees will ask also. Should I fire her and, more important, can I fire her? We only have nine employees.

The federal law against religious discrimination requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious practices, as long as doing so won’t cause “undue hardship” to the business. “Undue hardship” is anything more than minimal costs to the employer, which can include unfairness to other employees (such as the others who would like Christmas Eve off as well).

However, this is all irrelevant to you because the law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and you’re below that minimum. You’re legally able to tell her that working those holidays is a requirement of the job, and to let her go if she refuses (although it would be kinder to explain to her that you can’t let her take those days off and ask if she’d like to resign as a result).

2. Interviewer asked me to cover my own travel expenses but hadn’t given me a chance to ask questions about the job

I recently had my first Skype interview. The interview seemed to go well and they requested that we move to the next level of the process, with me visiting them for a follow-up interview, tour, and presentation. Their organization is halfway across the country from where I currently reside, and I would be expected to cover my own travel expenses. This did not surprise me, as it is (unfortunately) common in this particular field. However, what did surprise me is that I was not given time to ask any questions during the Skype interview; they stated that I would have an opportunity to ask questions during my visit. Is this normal? I decided to stop pursuing this position (over this and some other reasons), but I’m hoping that this isn’t to be expected from all Skype/phone interviews.

Well, they’re going to assume that you’ll speak up if you want something, like the chance to ask questions before flying out at your own expense. You’ve got to speak up for yourself. Ideally, you would have said something like, “I’m very interested in the job so far, but didn’t have a chance to ask questions of my own on our Skype call. Before flying myself out there, I’d appreciate that chance to find out a bit more about the job. Could we set up a quick phone call?”

3. How often is too often to reapply?

A company I would love to work for has had a position I’d be good for held open for several months now. While they haven’t been continually re-posting the position, they do have a bot that will occasionally refresh the position and several others on their Facebook and Twitter pages. I applied a while back, and I’m considering applying again, but my question is, how often is too often? I feel like jumping in every time the tweet or Facebook post shows up might look a little too desperate, but I do want to keep myself in their minds. For reference, this position has been open on what seems like a rolling basis for over a year and I had one awkward interview several months ago. How often should I reapply, if at all?

If you had an awkward interview for the job, it’s unlikely that they’re going to reconsider you … but there’s no harm in reapplying once. No more than that, though. They’ve already interviewed you and rejected you; it’s fine to re-suggest yourself, but doing it more than once would be overkill.

4. Applications that ask for every job you’ve ever held

A few jobs I’ve applied for have Internet applications that must be filled out that say things such as, “Starting with current or most recent, list all employers past and present. Include self-employment and summer and part-time jobs.”

This is for a professional mid-level job that requires a college degree. I am 7 years out of college and I’ve had two professional and relevant jobs in this time. For about six months post-college, I worked a variety of part-time jobs until I found full-time work on my career path. I worked part-time through college and had a variety of internships that would be irrelevant. I assume they are only looking at the relevant recent work, but if so why would they word it this way? I doubt they would care about my assistant manager shoe store job, but perhaps I am wrong.

Because they’re idiots and haven’t thought through what they’re asking for or why. Personally, I’d include only what I felt like including, but that’s an individual call.

5. Including a union steward job on a resume

This year I have been the union steward at my workplace. Should I include this on my resume? While it’s something I am proud of — it’s an unpaid position which I work hard at, which I devote a lot of time to, which I’ve received a lot of excellent feedback on, and which has given me a chance to develop significantly in many areas relevant to my social work career — I am concerned that some potential employers will read “union steward” as “rabble-rouser and malcontent.”

Some might. Others won’t. One way to look at it is that you don’t want to work for employers who do … but that’s an individual call.

6. Should I start looking for a new job?

At what point does someone my age and with my level of experience (27 and over a year of full-time under my belt after 3 years of part-time) start to consider a job search for better opportunities?

We’ve recently hired a part-time employee with the same job title as me — account executive. She’s 5 years older and has more experience overall, but has been a stay-at-home mom for 4 years. After deciding to reenter the workforce, she’s joined our small company. I immediately recognize her value to our company and know that I’ll learn a lot from her. However, she’s recently gotten several opportunities that my bosses have never presented to me. For example, she accompanied the owner on a feasibility interview for a fundraising client, and I was tasked with transcribing the one hour long recorded interview. Now, I’ll be attending a series of focus groups, not as a moderator, but as a silent note-taker and coffee-server. My new coworker will assist the owner in conducting them. Lately, we’ve also outsourced projects to contractors instead of assigning them to me. I feel like I’m consistently being demoted.

Well, your coworker has more experience than you. It makes sense that she’s being treated as the senior person between the two of you, because she is. And it sounds like you were happy with your job until someone more experienced started and was given higher-level work, which is a pretty normal thing for a more experienced person to be given.

That said, talk to your boss. Say that you’re interested in doing X, Y, and Z and ask how you can earn those opportunities. It might be as simple as asking, or you might find out that your boss wants to see you develop greater skills in A and B first. You won’t know until you ask.

I’d do that before you start thinking of moving on — primarily because it’s the logical thing to do, but also because one year isn’t a long time to spend at a job.

7. My employer controls where I park, even when I’m not working

I work for a not-for-profit gym in Indiana. My employer provides membership as an employment benefit. We pay the difference to add our families to the membership.

We have a policy that requires us, under threat of termination, to park in a staff designated parking lot whether we are working or using the facility to work out. My company does not own either parking lot. I usually acquiesce when I am alone or obviously or if I’m working, but can they dictate where I park when I have my children and we are coming to use the facility?

Yes. It’s a dumb policy, but there’s no law that prevents it. Actually, maybe it’s not even dumb, if this is part of the deal with your subsidized gym membership. If you turned down the subsidy and bought a full-price membership and they were still controlling where you parked, that would be dumb. But still legal.

{ 236 comments… read them below }

  1. Amouse*

    1) Who wants to get dental surgery on Christmas Eve? Speaking as someone who celebrates it, that would be the last place I’d want to be but then many people do not celebrate it and might look at it as an open day when many people would not want to be at the denist! In any case, how much of a hardship would it really be to give your employees the whole Dec. 24th off? I’ve had to work at several jobs until noon on Christmas Eve and it really is a huge inconvenience to have only the half day to prepare for plans. I know I am being slightly impractical but come one, don’t fire your emplyees for something like this. Find a way to work around, reschedule a little bit or ask your employees if they’d be willing to work extra before Dec 24th if it meant getting the whole day off. Unless they were told when hired that Christmas Eve would include working a halfday, compriomise and it will be a happier office.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m guessing they do emergency dental work — there are some emergency dentists that are open when no one else is, and they do great business. (I went to one at 2 a.m. once when I developed a sudden and immediate need to have my wisdom teeth pulled.)

      And if the staff regularly works Christmas Eve because that’s part of the job, I could see it causing resentment if the new person gets the night off and they all have to work.

      1. Ariel*

        It also seems like the employer is trying hard to meet the employee in the middle. I know it sucks to have to work on a holiday, but, frankly, sometimes it’s necessary, especially if you work in medical or emergency services (or retail, or food service, or public services…)

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Exactly this. It’s not a matter of it being an average day that you can just close down… businesses that do this sort of thing make *a lot* of money that day. I had a friend who worked at an optometrist office, and she worked hella overtime on New Years Eve… because a lot of people want to get squeezed in before their plan year ends, and staying open later meant that that office got a lot of patients that it wouldn’t have otherwise gotten.

        Sure, it would have been better if it were mentioned in the posting/interview that employees may be required to work holidays. And I’m sure in the future, after this, it will be!

        In an all-hands-on-deck situation, though, it doesn’t matter how many hours that person squeezed in earlier in the week; it’s irrelevant. And for her to not accept the compromise of a half day (which OP didn’t even need to offer), well, I guess after their next talk she’ll know her options!

        1. Forrest*

          The OP may of had and the employee may of just ignored it thinking that the law was on her side and it wouldn’t apply to her.

      3. Amouse*

        That would make sense if they d0 emergency work. As I said, I know I’m looking at this through slightly impractical lenses but I just see it as 4 hours (presumably of an 8 hour office day) to make a whole bunch of people much happier employees in the bigger picture. I would say they should all get the day off otherwise like you mentioned there could be huge resentment.

        PS: The wisdom teeth incident sounds horrible!

        1. fposte*

          Though the OP already offered her a half day instead, which she refused, so it’s actually a loss of eight hours if she simply doesn’t come in. From what I understand, businesses like this can make the plurality of their month’s income from a single day that they’re open and other offices aren’t. And as an employee, I can understand that this is a tradeoff that affects my pay and my future (presuming that it’s true in this case, of course), so I wouldn’t actually be made happy by losing a key day’s revenue. Though another possibility would be to offer an incentive bonus to anybody who worked on those days, so that the assistants who have to cover for this assistant get compensated for it. Workplace-wise, it’s not really the holiday, it’s making other people do an unfair amount of covering less desirable shifts, so that might even things out.

          1. Amouse*

            yeah the incentive bonuses could be a viable option. They could also offer for her and any other emplyees to take the other half of the day without pay so that they make up revenue there that won’t need to be paid our for salaries. I don’t know if that’s legal though.

        2. dood*

          is it confirmed that it’s an emergency place though? i would think she wouldn’t apply to emergency-type places if she knew she’d need religious holidays off. if it isn’t then i agree with anonymous above about just giving everyone christmas eve off. i dont understand why businesses have progressed to the point where they don’t think employees should have holiday days anymore.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yes. Yes we do.

              I was talking to some of the Europeans in my chat room once a few years ago about vacations, , and they were appalled that Americans take so little time off. One French person called it “barbaric.”

              1. JT*

                Elizabeth – I think you should distinguish between holiday (specific days when things are closed) and holidays as in vacation.
                I’d rather has of the first type of holidays and more vacation. We’re an increasingly multicultural society and a day off for which I can choose the timing is more valuable then a day of that I have to take.

                1. Natalie*

                  I’m pretty satisfied with how my company does it – we’re only closed on some federal holidays (the big ones, basically) and for the smaller federal holidays (Presidents, MLK, Columbus) we get a floating holiday.

                  We’re also closed the day after Thanksgiving, which is the best idea ever in my opinion.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Oh, true. I didn’t make that distinction. But they were still freaking out. Especially when I told them the job I previously had only gave us a week for the whole year. And just a few holidays (the typical ones).

              2. Yvi*

                I would think Americans could need more vacation days, but holidays?

                Well, I am German, and I get only the 5 national holidays (actually, 7, but 2 of those are Sundays) – I think the US has a few more of those.

                1. Yvi*

                  Also, adding to that – December 24 is only a “half holiday” over here, same as December 31. So taking both off costs me 1 vacation day.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  There are quite a few federal holidays, but only government employees, banks and the post office get them all off with any regularity. The rest of us are stuck at work.

                3. Yvi*

                  @Elizabeth: Oh, I didn’t know that – “national holiday” for me implies that almost everyone gets that day off, so I always assumed the few days of vacation time are at least counterbalanced a bit by a few more holidays :/

              3. Emily*

                Yep. I have loads of friends in Europe due to how I spent my youth traveling and the beauty of the Internet, and they’re always making comments about my struggle to get enough vacation to keep up the kind of travel I always enjoyed when I met them. The most generous job I’ve ever had, after earning some seniority, gave me as much vacation as what they consider the bare minimum (3 weeks annual, in addition to what they would call ‘bank holidays’ but we’d call something like ‘federal holiday office closure’).

          1. Long Time Admin*

            Good Friday and Christmas Eve are not Catholic Holy Days of Obligation (even though they do have specific services), so that shoots down the employee’s argument right there. Easter Sunday and Christmas Day were Holy Days long before anyone thought of making them holidays, and although most people have them off, there are a lot of people who work on those days now.

              1. Jamie*

                Correcting myself – Long Time Admin is right. Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence and not a Holy Day of Obligation as there’s no mass requirement.

                I really should know what I’m talking about before I post – sorry.

            1. Jill*

              I’m Catholic. Good Friday is a day of obligation – – but only from the hours of noon to 3 p.m., when we are to spend quiet time in reflection of the three hours Jesus Christ was dying on the cross. Christmas Eve is not a day of obligation for Catholics at all. Some Catholics choose to attend Christmas service (Mass) on the Eve, instead of the Day – but this is a choice, not an obligation.

              Therefore, the OP’s offer of working a half-day on these two days was perfectly reasonable and more than enough to accomodate the employee’s religious beliefs.

      4. fposte*

        It’s also a day a lot of *other* people have off from work, so it’s the day that they can actually go to the dentist.

        1. perrik*

          +1 to that. I live in DC – federal holidays mean fully-booked appointment schedules for medical offices and other service providers. The malls and supermarkets are packed, too. And as Kimberlee noted, the end of the year = use up your health benefits and health savings plan.

          Was the employee aware that she would be expected to work on holidays? The OP might have assumed that she would know this was common and thus didn’t explicitly say “certain holidays are extremely busy and you will be expected to work on the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve”.

          (then again, I’ve been expected to work those days as well and I’m not in any sort of service/retail environment)

          1. Chinook*

            But what if she was Jewish asking for Yom Kippur? She isn’t asking for it off because she was on vacation but for RELIGIOUS reasons. While Christmas Everyone might be negotiable but Good Friday is not (ditto for Holy Thursday service which is usually at 7 pm the night before). As someone who has had to miss a mandatory staff meeting for an Ash Wednesday service and mandatory Sunday morning staff meetings, I pointed out that it was practice to let Jewish and Muslim employees take their holy days off and it would be discriminatory to not let a Christian do the same. After all, I have no control over when state holidays are.

            As for OP not remembering it being like that when they were younger, some people are stricter Catholics than others.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Right, but the law about religious discrimination actually doesn’t say that. It says make the accommodation if you can do it without causing undue hardship to the business, and that you don’t need to accommodate at all if you’re a small employer, which she is.

            2. class factotum*

              Chinook, no disrespect, but Ash Wednesday services where I live are usually scheduled in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening. Plus one parish had drive-by ashes. (I am remembering them for next year.)

              I have always worked on Good Friday, as well, and was really annoyed when I was in grad school and the university library closed on Good Friday for Good Friday. If you’re that serious about GF services, go in the evening after work! Or go at lunch for stations.

              I’ve been Catholic my whole life and have never felt like my religion gave me the right to insist on certain holidays.

              1. Chinook*

                And my diocese planned Holy Thursday masses at 7 pm everywhere where priest staffing permitted at Ash Wednesday services in the afternoon only (it could be a Canadian bishops thing). I had a team lose a sports tournament one year because the finals were at the same time and 3/4 of the team was involved at mass, so I understand compromise. But, I still want to know if the OP and others would accomodate if it was for Eide or Yom Kippur or Orthodox Easter? If they would for other faiths and not Catholics, that would be discrimination based on religion, isn’t it? Or would you reccomend that the OP never hire a practicing Catholic? I know that goes against the Canadian constitution.

                1. Cletus*

                  I think you have it misunderstood… OP is not wanting to deny the request because of the holiday/religion, OP is denying it because of a business need (which is what ALL requests off would be based on (not because its Yom Kippor)).

                  That being said if Yom Kippor is a slow day at the office and the Boss has coverage, then sure take that day off… But again, it is approved because of business needs, NOT religion.

        2. Anonymous*

          We get the whole week after Christmas off and it would be a convenient time to have and then recover from surgery (though kind of a bummer if you like the holidays!)

          1. Bobby Digital*

            Yes – my brother and I had our wisdom teeth extracted on Dec. 23 so that we could recover in time to return to school (…yay).

            It wasn’t an emergency clinic, but the doctor told us that Christmas Eve and Christmas were solidly booked for this reason: kids have off from school and parents have off from work. Minimizes sick days.

    2. Sarah G*

      I’ve *never* had a job – medical office, law office, social work, etc – where I’ve had Christmas Eve and Good Friday off. I’ve always had Christmas Day off, and sometimes got to leave a few hours early Christmas Eve or NYE, but Good Friday?
      And in any medical setting, no holidays should be presumed off. This employee should have mentioned her requirement when negotiating the job, esp since she was just hired so the holidays are at most 3 months from her start date. If it’s going to be an issue every year, and possibly with other holidays too, this office isn’t a good fit for her.
      Fwiw, I got my 4 impacted wisdom teeth out on NYE day when I was 19 or 20. I had to get it done on my college break, and guess what, this was the only day the office had openings by the time I scheduled. No fun, but necessary!

      1. Andrew*

        The American stock exchanges are closed on Good Friday, so a lot of financial types have at least a half-day off.

    3. Josh S*

      A) Whether or not it’s an ’emergency’ type clinic, Christmas Eve and other days are typically busy simply because lots of people have them off. It’s a great day for many service-oriented businesses to be open because they can serve clients who would otherwise have to take time off work to come during normal business hours.

      B) If the new hire wanted to negotiate those days off, the time to do it was after receiving an offer, but before accepting it. That’s like being hired as seasonal help over the holidays at a retail store, but then announcing 2 weeks before Black Friday that you can’t work that day–it’s one of the big reasons they hired you, and you’re going to burn a lot of bridges by not being up front about it.

      C) While I absolutely respect the observance of religious services (I’m a religious guy myself), I cannot imagine that the dental surgery office is going to be open at Midnight Mass on Christmas eve, or that working a half day would put an obstacle in the New Hire’s ability to get to Midnight Mass. Likewise, most Good Friday services I’ve known are held in the evening, after normal working hours.

      There are SO MANY devout Catholics who work, yet still manage to get to Mass/Ash Wednesday service/whatever, that this New Hire is IMO pretty obviously just trying to get extra holiday time for the sake of family plans, etc.

      Sorry, but the OP really has no reason to cave to her demands, has already made a great good faith effort (pun intended) to accommodate even though he’s not legally required to, and is perfectly justified in laying down an ultimatum for the New Hire–either show up these days for your scheduled hours or you’ll be fired.

      1. class factotum*

        Whether or not it’s an ‘emergency’ type clinic, Christmas Eve and other days are typically busy simply because lots of people have them off.

        Which is why I do not get why more docs, dentists, and optometrists don’t have Saturday and evening hours. Imagine how much more business you would get if you made it easy for your patients to see you!

        1. Josh S*

          Right? I mean, I get wanting family time. But having even a few evenings each week would be great, wouldn’t it?

          As in,
          S Closed
          M Closed
          T 12-8
          W 9-5
          Th 12-8
          F 9-5
          S 9-5

          40 hours right there, and plenty of evening and weekend hours, PLUS a full 2 day weekend.

          1. AmyRenee*

            My optometrist has a schedule similar to this and its wonderful. He’s closed Mondays, open late Tuesdays and Thursdays and has hours on 1 Saturday per month. The appointments book up far in advance, but since you usually only see an optometrist once a year its not a problem for me to schedule an appointment a few months out to get a time convenient to me. I wish more professional offices offered hours like this.

          2. Natalie*

            My dentist is only open late on Thursdays and only a half day on Fridays. I think they might have some limited Saturday morning hours, too.

          3. Emily*

            Mmm, a full 2-day weekend and I don’t have to report in until noon on the first day of the workweek? Sign me up.

            1. Evan the College Student*

              Plus, a full weekday off to make appointments at all the other places that don’t offer schedules like this!

      2. Just Me*

        Point ” A ” is exactly what I was thinking. People in regular offices not as subjected to the holiday needs a lot of time take that day off or at least half to get these types of services done.

        The OP made a very reasonable request in asking the employee to meet her halfway on this issue.

    4. Anonymous*

      It is the best time to get your wisdom teeth pulled!

      At many companies, it’s plausible to take off ~1.5 weeks of time with less than 5 days of vacation if you get multi-day breaks for Christmas and for New Year’s day. When I needed my wisdom teeth pulled, I did it right before Christmas and had a nice long time to recover. It was nice to miss out on the inevitable chipmunk-look commentary and to not have to take painkillers while working.

    5. Ellie H.*

      Incidentally, some people really like working on Christmas and New Year’s (and other holidays). I am semi religiously observant, but there’s something about working on the holiday that makes it more special to me (though my mom misses my help cooking & cleaning). It also makes me feel good to know that I’m providing my fellow employees with the opportunity to spend time with their families. When I worked at a bookstore, I would always request to work Christmas Eve day. I love wishing customers happy holidays and watching it get quiet in the late afternoon.

      Also, the subject of working on holidays inevitably makes me think of While You Were Sleeping, which I love.

    6. Emily*

      Language nitpick: But the half-day instead of full day already was a compromise! Changing her business operations to close on a day she’s normally open or giving the employee the entire day off isn’t a compromise; it’s just caving into the employee.

      I know a half-day isn’t ideal but I think it’s a nice gesture of the employer who would rather she be there the entire day with everyone else, after all.

      1. Another Emily*

        Maybe it’s because I’m Canadian and Christmas Eve isn’t a holiday here (Christmas Day is) but I have zero sympathy for this whiny employee. I think the new compromise should be if she works all her shifts she gets to keep her job.

        The OP really tried to be nice, maybe too nice. I think a new conversation is in order to tell the employee it’s important for all hands to be on deck on this day and she is expected to be there for the entire regular shift. Then there will be no confusion.

  2. perrik*

    #6 – Have you asked the owner why those projects were outsourced instead of being assigned to you? Were you doing that level of project *before* the new person came along? If so, discuss with your boss why you are no longer presented with those projects. If not, discuss with your boss your desire to perform those types of projects.

    If you were performing higher-level functions before, and are now only asked to do assistant-level stuff like take notes, you need to find out why and what you can do about it. If you have been doing this sort of assistant-level stuff all along, ask how to progress to the next level.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oooh, I skipped right over that sentence about outsourcing projects. If these used to go to the OP, it’s possible that the boss has concerns about the OP’s work that she doesn’t know about, which makes it all the more important that she talk to her boss.

      1. OP #6*


        We are a small company (the 2 owners, me, and my new part-time coworker) so many of the outsourcing projects were due to our “time restraints.” But, the owner had asked me early on if I thought we could take on a certain project. My usual reply is yes, because I’m eager to do more work. But, we end up outsourcing and I serve as support for the outsourced project manager (who is also a personal friend of the owner).

        The size of my company has much to do with the level of projects I’ve been given – because we have no admin or assistant, I often get assigned those tasks. My bosses have talked to me about hiring an administrative assistant for the office, but instead hired someone on the “same level” as me, so the admin duties trickle down to me even more lately than normal.

        I do recognize that I need to have a conversation with my boss addressing my progress; Your advice has prepared me better for that.

  3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    OP #7: It is not at all unusual for employers to demand you park in such a way that customers have access to better spots. Every place I’ve ever worked at with a parking lot has told employees that they need to park in designated employee spots, or at the back of the lot. If you needed some kind of accommodation, like for a disability, I’m sure that your employer would be willing to listen, but otherwise I’m sure you and your kids can walk a few extra steps for the privilege of using the facilities for free.

      1. Josh S*

        On the flip side, it can be a pain to traverse a long walk (in inclement weather, especially) with kids in tow. The OP doesn’t mention how far the employee lot is from the main door, which could be relevant, as well.

        Is there a way you could drive a different car (one without the Employee Tags) when you bring the kids to the gym? How does the employer know that you’re breaking the rule–are they following you to the parking lot?

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I doubt they have tags on the cars, it’s probably more enforced by employees noticing when another employee comes into the gym when they’re not working. But if they did have tags, I would consider this deceptive, and if I were the employer and found out about it, I would get mad (since the point is not what car you drive, but that you’re taking up customer spaces). So I wouldn’t advocate this approach.

          1. Josh S*

            But the kids/other family members ARE paid customers! So why shouldn’t they be allowed to use the customer spaces?

            I mean, would it make a difference if the OP’s spouse were the one driving?

      1. LPBB*

        I used to work in the same building as a gym. You would not believe the number of cars that circled around the parking garage looking for a close parking spot.

        The best was the people who would just sit there waiting as Mom packed all the kids into the minivan so they could get that spot. They would sit there blocking everyone else for seemingly HOURS. There was more parking, too, about 200 yds away!

        Of course these were the same women (it was a women’s gym) that would line up and wait for an elevator to take them up *one* floor to the gym.

        1. Jenn*

          I would take the elevator at my gym if it weren’t single-story. I can swim laps like nobody’s business but my knees are too screwed up for stairs.

          1. Sandy*

            I’m in the same boat. The only cardio I can really do without my knee hurting is the recumbent bike, but my gym only has 2 on the first floor, the rest are on the 2nd floor and there’s no elevator. I hate having to take the steps one at a time up to do my cardio. I always think people think I’m faking it because I can do the bike and walk fine, but hobble down the steps.

          2. KellyK*

            Sorry about your knees! I keep having ankle issues, so I definitely sympathize.

            And, yeah, it’s really not cool to assume “lazy” or “stupid” when someone takes an elevator instead of the stairs or wants to park close. The *last* thing I want to do after a long run on a treadmill is a long walk back to my car, especially if I’ve already showered and changed!

    1. Anonymous*

      Drop the kids and spouse at the front door before parking. Then only the OP has to make the longer walk.

      If there’s a disability issue, it should be trivial to just tell the management that and use a proper handicap spot. The management doesn’t want to make a handicap person suffer – they just want to leave the better parking open to paying customers.

    2. anon*

      Have to say that my gym apparently lets the employees park wherever they want. I was fairly annoyed to drop my son off at summer camp and see one of the 18 year old counselors take a spot about 10 spaces from the door. She’s going to hog that spot all day while customers have to park in the back 40. I see the point about not getting to park close when the OP is there with the family, but otherwise I agree with the policy.

      1. Another Emily*

        This is why employee parking is usually in undesirable spots. For the OP, she’s there as a customer too, except her membership is cheaper because she’s working there. I understand why she would want to be treated as a customer when she’s not working. I think Alison’s advice was spot on though. Inconvenient parking is the price of a reduced membership cost.

        1. Another Emily*

          I mean her membership is cheaper because she works at the gym, not that she’s working at that exact moment. Oops.

  4. Debbie*

    As a matter of fact, many people want surgery on this day. We all reside in a largely Jewish community. No, I do not want to fire her but I can’t tell her she can have the day off and not the other employees. I feel if these were such important days off for her, then she should have said something in the interview and hiring process. I also feel that the compromise of working half day was fair.

    1. Amouse*

      I can see where you’re coming from. Would you be willing to offer the option for her or any ither interested employees to take the other half of the day without pay?

      1. Amouse*

        I ask because of this option had been offered to me back at other places I worked at I think I may have seriously considered trading 4 hours of pay for the whole day off. Some people wouldn’t but either way you’d be offering the option and be able to not pay those hours.

    2. perrik*

      I agree that the half-day offer was fair. I think you may have to fire her or give her the option of resigning with a decent reference – what the judges call “dismissing a case without prejudice”. If your other employees are not allowed to take the day off, they’re going to be furious that a brand-new employee gets that privilege.

      Now at least you know to be explicit in the interview process about working on holidays (although as I noted elsewhere in the thread, an experienced health care professional ought to have been aware of this necessity).

    3. Kou*

      In fairness to your employee, there are plenty of Catholics who do take Good Friday and the entire Christmas holiday very seriously. She probably didn’t bring this up before because she assumed, correcty or incorrectly, that those days are holidays you would be used to people requesting leave for, or days you might be closed anyway. She’s probably used to this being a non-issue, since it would be most places.

      I think the idea of offering it as unpaid leave is a place to start. And, like Alison said, offer her the chance to resign before you fire her. But I’m curious as to why giving her the day off is so out of the question. Is it because you need her help absolutely, or you’re afraid of the snowball effect this may have on others asking for holidays off? Because plenty of businesses that are open on holidays deal with who-has-to-work roulette, including a lot of medical practices, and I wonder about avoiding that inconvenience being worth firing someone.

      1. Kou*

        That said, if you need your staff there on those holidays, this isn’t going to work for the two of you, obviously. I’m just saying, I wouldn’t judge the new employee too harshly for not anticipating this.

      2. Hari*

        THIS. I grew up Catholic too but more traditional. We practiced lent, didn’t eat meat on Fridays during it, did minimal work (meaning chores, etc) on Sundays and holidays.

        But these days people might want to be fired as she still might have unemployment from her last job she can collect on in the interim of finding a new job. I would at least give her the option of continuing to work until you find someone new.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Kou, the problem is that it’s likely to cause a morale issue with other employees who also don’t want to work on Christmas Eve. She can’t justify giving the new person the holiday off when everyone else is required to work it. This isn’t about a rotating holiday schedule; it’s an employee who will never work her holiday rotation.

        1. Amouse*

          Here’s what I would do if I were this OP: give everyone the option of taking half the day with pay off if they like or working and give everyone the option of taking the other half of the day off without pay. That way you’re recouping some of the cost for it, being fair to everyone andmaking sure those that stay are paid appropriately. Obviously cost is a factor but this would show flexiblity, respect and fairness. That’s just my two cents. This issue is always heated and never pleases everyone.

          1. Ariancita*

            Or, offer more pay to those who do work the holiday. I’ve worked retail where we were open every day of the year except Christmas day. And on days like Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, and Thanksgiving, employees who agreed to work those days were paid 1.5x. And this was a small single owner retailer with low profits. Presumably, you’re making a lot more money that day; you could spread that boon around a bit.

            1. Amouse*

              From what I could gather I don’t think the OP herself would work Chrismtas day so having people work there (unless there are enough dentists to stay open Christmas Day) might not be viable.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That assumes that she can operate well without her full staff there, which it sounds like she can’t. Everyone is telling this OP how to staff her business, but I’d think we should trust her to know how much coverage she needs on given days.

            1. Amouse*

              I hate to make assumptions but it sounds like the OP does have some stubbornness here and lack of willingness to be flexible because it’s just soemthing no employee has asked for before. It may well be just a staffing issue but it seems to be she has options to get around this and be flexible and does not want to. That’s just my impression from the letter and follow-up.

              1. JT*

                “but it sounds like the OP does have some stubbornness here and lack of willingness to be flexible because it’s just soemthing no employee has asked for before. ”

                The OP offered a half day, which the employee refused, and you think the OP is the one not willing to be flexible?

            2. LL*

              Based on the OP’s question, it seems that she wants the Catholic to work out of a sense of fairness, not necessity. Instead of saying she needed all hands on deck, the OP was worried that the other employees would want the day off as well.

              Amouse, I sensed the stubborness as well. Could be my own bias showing through – I’m Catholic and try to avoid working religious holidays whenever possible. Thank goodness my employer offers floating holidays!

            3. Just Me*

              I was just going to say that. I am confussed why everyone is deciding that the OP should just change the entire business hours, rotations, days off, holiday schedule and so on for this employee or any other.

              Obviously the way the OP has been running the business has been working before the employee was hired.

              Business will never be able to accomodate everyones needs like this.

              Working at a job sometimes mean compromise and if one can’t work a certain job or hours because of their own personal needs that is the employee’s issue not the company.
              YES companies should TRY to accomodate but if they can’t than the employee has to make a decision regarding their commitment to the job.

            4. Kou*

              That’s why I asked what the need was– if it’s an issue of her needing her entire staff there to be able to run the day, it’s different (in my opinion) than just not wanting to give that day because it would be hard to explain.

      4. Anonymous*

        What are Catholics *required* to do on Christmas Eve? I know many very observant Catholics and the only thing that do is go to Midnight Mass which really falls on the beginning of Christmas Day. Some Churches observe this earlier in the night on Christmas Eve (if they have a large younger or older congregation), and some have optional masses earlier in the Christmas Eve. but it’s not required. And those same Catholics have worked on Christmas Eve. It really sounds like #1’s employee has just made up the requirement they cannnot work on that day. (no I’m not catholic, but my in-laws are so I do have good first hand knowledge.) Good Friday is slightly different, as there are masses and some other things that do happen during the day, but even so I’ve seen many Catholics work that day too, and go to a mass that’s in the evening.

        1. LL*

          Traditionally, Christmas Eve was a day of fasting and abstinence. This is no longer a requirement, but many Catholics still observe the old tradition.

          1. Natalie*

            You can fast at work, though. Observant Muslims do it for Ramadan – you can’t take a whole month off work.

        2. Anonymous*

          I’m asking about required versus want – if in the employee’s mind it’s completely against how they see their faith, then it’s required. If it’s because there are masses that day, family get togethers, that they wouldn’t go to for some reason (say sickness) then this follows more in the want category. It’s a very fine line.

          1. Mike C.*

            I’m a bit uncomfortable with a third party such as yourself dictating to a complete stranger what is and is not required for proper observance of their own religion.

            That’s really none of your business.

        3. Christina*

          Although Christmas Day is a holy day of obligation ( in the Catholic Church, Christmas Eve and Good Friday are not considered one the holy days of obligation. Much like Sunday Mass where Catholics have the option to attend a vigil mass on Saturday evening, Christmas Eve Mass is considered a “vigil mass” for Christmas (

          I would consider myself a traditional Catholic. My perspective on the matter is this- while I would expect my employer to reasonably accommodate my religious practices, I also take in to account my employer. For example, since I work evenings, I do not expect my employer to give me the evening off for every holy day of obligation when I know that I have the option of several other service times outside of work hours. I would, however, expect my employer to give me time to attend services if, for some reason, I had to work during all the times when services were offered.

        4. Jamie*

          “What are Catholics *required* to do on Christmas Eve”

          In my experience as a Catholic were required to do last minute shopping/cleaning/cooking…like every one else who celebrates the holiday.

          Sure, it’s great to have off but I’ve never heard of Christmas eve being a religious holiday. Midnight mass is optional, I love it because it means I can spend Christmas morning at home and not fighting for a parking space at church.

          Good Friday in my experience is cultural. As an American of European descent we didn’t do anything special on that day but places with a high percentage of Mexican personnel will close Good Friday as there will be too many call outs otherwise. It seems to be more significant to have the day off in that culture.

          I honestly think the OP should listen to Alison. The schedule is what it is – this will be a nightmare to give her thoses days off and require everyone else to work.

        5. Kou*

          My family’s Catholic (ok, well, except for me– cradle Catholic) and they spend the whole freaking day at church.

          I mean, I get that this isn’t common. I know that, as Jamie pointed out, it’s not the standard. But you really don’t get to tell people what is and is not a necessary part of their faith vs an optional one. I dropped out of the entire religion and I still don’t even try to tell them when I feel they’re being overly reverent. It’s not my place, and it is absolutely not the place of an employer.

          1. Jamie*

            The problem is determining to what extent the employer is obligated to accommodate personal and non- conventional observances of a religion.

            There are 17 Holy Days of Obligation in 2013, and Christmas Eve is not one of them. Good Friday is, so that’s different IMO.

            A little explain action for non-Catholics a Holy Day of Obligation requires a Catholic to attend mass and avoid servile work “to the extent that is possible.”

            Most parishes have masses both crazy early and after work to accommodate people with jobs.

            It is a really tough to parse out what is a truly required religious accommodation when the employee follows a organized religion and what they are asking for cant be verified by a requirement of their faith.

            If it were me I’d give in on Good Friday if possible without nude hardship, but not Christmas Eve.

          2. doreen*

            It’s not a matter of deciding whether someone is overly reverent. It’s a matter of what an employer is obliged to accomodate , and Catholicism is one of the religions that has very clear rules as to what is actually required by the religion ( not all do). Anything more is a personal preference. There are people who attend Mass daily, but that doesn’t mean an employer is required to change an employee’s working hours to accomodate that attendance.

            1. fposte*

              However, the law doesn’t see it that way–all it requires is that the belief be “sincerely held,” and in practice courts really don’t like to challenge the sincerity of the holding, which I think is legit. It doesn’t matter if it’s Catholic doctrine or the Pope himself tells her to get to work–what matters is that the employee believes it. So while I too am a bit skeptical about the employee’s religious claim, that’s not really germane to the question–I think the decision needs to be made as if there were no doubt at all.

              1. Jamie*

                I looked at the statute itself and you’re correct – its very broad.

                While I’m sure that most people asking for religious accommodation are sincere, I am a little surprised its not used by less sincere people to tailor their schedule. I could feasibly work 4 days a week and put in all my hours so I can adhere to my own handcrafted deeply held beliefs of not working Fridays – ever. My employer would have to prove their was an undue hardship to allow me to do that and the courts do make them prove the financial reasons they’re saying no – but I wouldn’t need any proof beyond my own word about what my beliefs are.

                Now I wouldn’t do that, but I’m surprised more people dont since I’ve seen people use a million other ways to game the system.

    4. Steve G*

      How would bringing up religion and how you celebrate holidays in an interview seem appropriate? The only time it would seem appropriate is if you are Orthodox or Hasidic Jewish (I work with many) and they take off many many many days (and magicially all of the work gets done and dental surgeries still get done), but tend not to just work 9-5 when they do work.

      A Christian needs so few days off per year it is not worth bringing up unless you work at a plce where you’d expect to have to work on holidays, such as in an emergency room. A dental office is not such a place.

      Also, if the other employees aren’t religious and don’t take such beliefs as seriously they are not really losing out on anything by not getting those days off.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You wouldn’t raise it in an interview, but once you had an offer, you’d explain that you needed those days off and make sure you had an agreement that you could take them.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        We had so many Jewish customers at my last job (most of them on the East coast) that I marked my calendar every year with all the Jewish holidays. I had to be careful when I shipped stuff to them because many times they would be closed. Some of the stuff they needed before then, or it was inconvenient to redeliver. (I never asked if they were Jewish; I usually found out by trial and error on shipping, or they had already told me they would be gone.)

      3. AHK!*

        Re the orthodox jews–a lot of us basically use up all of our vacation time for the holidays. and if we leave early on fridays for sabbath, we come in early or work later at another time so that we’re still working 40 hours a week.

        1. Chinook*

          I agree that the employee should take a vacation day or, if they have none available, an unpaid day (as I would expect if she was there less than 3 days.

          And, as someone who spends most of Easter weekend in a church when most of my friends are having a fun long weekend, I hear you (I am a cantor and always volunteered in the church and the Tridium wears out both volunteers and priests). But, I also recognize that that is my choice and try to remember that I do enjoy myself once I’m there.

    5. Sarah G*

      “I feel if these were such important days off for her, then she should have said something in the interview and hiring process. I also feel that the compromise of working half day was fair.”
      If this were an typical office setting, I could understand her not mentioning it, but not in any type of medical setting. And it’s not about just letting her have these 2 days off, it’s about other employees’ morale, and it’s going to be an issue every year. If it were me, I’d let her resign.

    6. AnonA*


      Why not poll the staff and find outif the coverage would be a real deal breaker, or just a fuss that you anticipate? There seem to be a wealth of reasonable options for a person who needs flexibility on two days. Honestly, your only option is not to not hire her. What about a Jewish worker who knows they wouldn’t come in for Yom Kippur? What about being reasonable. I feel like AAM really dropped the ball here, a rarity.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        While taking staff opinions into account is good, it is not the staff’s responsibility to make sure that days are covered. It is the OP’s, and as Alison said upthread, second-guessing her opinions about the needs of her own business is not helpful. It is not for the staff to decide how much is enough coverage, or how fair another employee taking the day off is.

    7. EngineerGirl*

      The question is, did you mention that she **would** have to work those days during the interview? Many places offer these days off, so it may have caught her by surprize that she was expected to work. Disclosure on your part is important too. If you didn’t disclose, I can see her now pushing back.

      You don’t have the right to determine what is/is not acceptable/unacceptable for someones religion. Different sects practice differently. You may think you are being resonable, and she may think otherwise. There is a huge difference between violating ones religious beliefs Vs inconveniencing someone by asking them to alter their plans. People who don’t hold deeply held religious beliefs don’t seem to “get it” when they are asking for a compromise. If it violates someones deeply held religious belief, there is no compromise.

      Does this mean the situation is unworkable? No! The employee can “make it up” to other employees by working Saturdays, evenings, and other off times that they would want off. I did this with one of my reports. I don’t work on Sundays, so he worked for me. In return, I covered for him when he wanted to leave early to watch his kids soccer/running events. Win/win. That is accomodation.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Btw, this was for a satellite launch that spanned multiple weeks (one included Christmas). I don’t ask people to work on their sabbath or other religious holidy, but this was one of those things you can’t stop once you start.

        How to do it? I sent out a schedule ahead of time asking each team member to block out “must have” and “like to have” off times. Then we started negitiating/trading, and trying to ensure that we had proper coverage. Employees felt they were treated fairly and were accomodated. No need to bring up the “religious” part, because it was part of the “must have”

        1. Amouse*

          ” I don’t ask people to work on their sabbath or other religious holidy, but this was one of those things you can’t stop once you start.”

          Christmas Day is the equivalent of those as it is a stat. As much as I’m for this eemployer being flexible i think I disagree with your reasoning as to why.

          Could have soemthing to do with my personal bias against judging religious reasoning as superior to other reasoning. But that’s for a different blog.

          1. EngineerGirl*

            Argh. It isn’t religious reasoning. It is what is in the constitution. That means it gets accomodated, along with race, gender, and all the other things in the constitution.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The Constitution doesn’t say that it’s more important than anything else; it says that the government can’t abridge your practice of it. It addresses what the government can and can’t do, not what private employers can and can’t do.

              (And the laws on workplace religious accommodation that do exist are comparatively recent, limited in scope, and not part of the Constitution.)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That assumes that someone can take the day off as long as others cover for them. This might be a case where all employes need to be at work, since it’s a high-volume day. There are lots of businesses that run that way, as Kimberlee pointed out above.

        If it’s a requirement of the job to be there that day because of business needs, that’s the requirement.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          My point being, if this was a requirement (not merely a nice to have) was this disclosed as part of the interview process? Regular dental offices do close on Christmas eve, but emergency ones don’t. So the question is, was this disclosed ahead of time? Neither side should be springing a surprize on the other. But I wonder if this was merely a miscommunication? Did the OP assume that “of course” the employee would work on Christmas eve because “that’s what we always do” and did the employee assume that “of course” she would have that day off because most offices do that? The employee might really have belived that there was no need to ask for religious accomodation because “normal” operating hourse would never have been a problem for her.

          But now she has been hired, and because there was no apparent discussion ahead of time, it has become a problem.

          1. fposte*

            There are lots of medical and dental practices open on the 24th, though, so I don’t think this is exceptional or surprising.

          2. JT*

            If it wasn’t “disclosed” then it seems that the OP should re-open negotiation, which she has by offering a compromise. The employee has rejected that.

            The fair thing to do is to let the employee leave (resign) with a good recommendation.

    8. AmyRenee*

      Are ALL of the other employees working on Christmas Eve, or just the ones usually scheduled to work Mondays (or whatever day of the week it is)? If every single other employee is scheduled to work, then yes she needs to work too. If not, is there another hygienist that is scheduled off that would be willing to trade shifts with her for a future day off? I would start with approaching anyone who is scheduled for the day off and ask if they are willing to work that day in exchange for a different day off. Or have employees with higher seniority already asked for the day off and been granted it?
      Do you have a system in place for how you handle requests for days off? Give x number of days notice in advance, requests granted by seniority, for instance? To prevent future issues, you may want to create a calendar for 2013 showing all days the office will be open to give employees plenty of time to get requests for days off in the future, and a policy as to how to handle if more employees request a day off than you can grant (by seniority, by rotation, by whoever requests first, whatever your system may be) and consequences for not working scheduled shifts. It may not be an issue now, but if you are in an area with a large Jewish population you may have the same issue come up with multiple employees wanting to take off for Yom Kippur, etc and need to have a plan in place for how to deal with that.

      I am struck by the fact that you said she “will not” work Christmas Eve. That sounds like she has no intention of working that day and doesn’t bode well for her attitude overall. If you think she would just not show up on Christmas Eve if scheduled, that needs to be addressed now, so you have time to find a replacement.

      AAM, can you provide the Florida statute for the OP so she can give it to the employee when explaining the choices of work, resign or be fired to her?

        1. AmyRenee*

          Ok, I meant the statute that shows 15 employees minimum, so she can show the employee that the law DOES NOT apply in the case of her office. The employee may think the law is on her side, not knowing that is has a clause for number of employees.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Oh, I see. I wouldn’t recommend that the OP preemptively bring up the law, but rather than she just explain what she needs (since pointing to the law is kind of beside the point in this case). But if the employee brings up legal issues, the OP could certainly say something like, “I think you’re referring to the federal and state laws on religious accommodation, but they don’t cover employers our size. They apply to employers with more than 15 employees.”

            If she needs to cite the specific laws (which will sound antagonistic unless the employee asks), it’s Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (federal) and the Florida Civil Rights Act (state).

  5. Kou*

    For #2, it woulda like the OP did say they had some questions and were told there would only be time for that later. Or were pre-emptied by the interviewer who ended their talk with that comment and then wrapped things up.

  6. Crazy for TEAPOTS!*

    #1 – Yes this sucks, and I am sorry you have to go through this, but this is not your fault. This is, however, a part of being the Boss.

    If you “just” hired her, you may have other people you recently informed they did NOT get the job. I would gauge any interest from your other candidates and see what that looks like.

    “However, this is all irrelevant to you because the law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and you’re below that minimum. ” – There are several laws/benefits/tax breaks that only apply to large companies. This is one where it may benefit you to leverage.

    *** I hope you send an update after everything settles ***

  7. Steve G*

    I am Catholic, and while I would work on Christmas Eve, Easter is a very special holiday for me and I always leave early on Holy Thursday to go to the late night mass and don’t go back until Monday. I once got fired from a retail job that opened on Easter because I refused to work (side note, they typically made $50-80K per day but only made around $20K on New Years and Easter so I have no idea why they thought that was worth the sacrifice).

    I know someone who works as a dental assistant temp and gets alot of temp work which leads me to beleive that you could also have the option of hiring a dental Asst temp to cover here?

    You are sort of between a rock and a hard place because getting rid of an employee because of a few days they need off does not a very nice person make, especially if your business is doing well. Yes it doesn’t feel fair that she puts you in this situation, but it is also not fair that employers as a whole these days don’t respect holidays.

    1. Hari*

      Often temps are more expensive to the business that if just a regular employee worked it as you would pay the regular wages plus an additional 20-30% extra to the temp agency. A small business with 9 people like in OPs case might not be able to afford it. Although I do think its a pretty good idea if OP considers it an option.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Then, though, you’ve still got the problem of being unfair to the other employees, because you’re only hiring a temp to let this one person have the time off.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          No, Allison. This isn’t a fairness issue. Asking the others to work doesn’t violate a belief they hold to the very core of their being. It would be unfair if she always got extra times off and they didn’t. But if she got these times off while others got other very-important-to-them times off, then it would be fair. Maybe she can cover for them when their kid is in the school play, etc. Or if they want to go home early for a big date on Valentines day. Or whatever.

          Don’t confuse treating everyone the same as treating them equally.

          1. Amouse*

            I dunno, I think Christmas holiday is such a contentious issue for everyone Christan and not that offering the same option across the board (half day off option, half day no pay option) would seriously minimize the potential for morale issues for both Christian workers and non and let those who want to work not be ordered not to or lose pay which could be just as contentious. Those wanting to take the entire day off will need to show a little understanding that this is a small business and their employer cannot afford to pay for the whole day but respects them.

            1. EngineerGirl*

              Again. There is a difference between someone wanting the day off because it would be really wonderful Vs asking someone to violate their religious belief.

              I would equate being asked to work on Sunday to asking me to stab someone. Yes, that is the level of seriousness it is to me.

              That doesn’t mean that accomodation can’t take place. It us more work for the office manager, but results in happier, more productive employees. I understand that this is a small business, but again I question – was this disclosed to the employee prior to her accepting the job?

              1. Amouse*

                Ugh. Sorry but I really don’t like that level of judgement and I suspect the Op’s employees wouldn’t either. People have a myriad of reasons for why holidays are important to them in this world and the OP as a boss does not get to say whose is more or less important.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                There’s a difference to you. There is not a difference to everyone. Saying “religion is more important than your reasons” is a tautological argument; you think it’s more important because it’s more important to you, but that doesn’t make it inherently more important.

                Furthermore, this is a small business and a busy work day for them. It’s possible that NO employees can have the day off — that this isn’t a question of letting her but not others, but rather a question of everyone needing to be there that day. If that’s the case, that’s just the way it is — the employee can keep the job or not keep it, knowing those are the terms. It’s not reasonable to tell the dentist to schedule fewer appointments on that day because one employee is religious.

                1. Amouse*

                  Paragraph 1: +1
                  Paragraph 2: Wouldn’t giving the option of half day without pay cover the costs potentiall of scheduling fewer appointments? I obviously don’t have the specifics but wouldn’t it be worth looking at at least for the OP?

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t know — I assume if it’s a busy day, that means the whole day is busy and she wants everyone there all day. But she did offer the half day and the employee refused.

                3. Amouse*

                  True. Again I’m not this manager but I’d offer the half day across the board, other half day without pay if it were possible and then if the employee was still unwilling to take the other half without pay I’d proceed to put my foot down that that was her only option.

                4. fposte*

                  Maybe somebody in the industry can weigh in, but given that it’s easy to drop $1000 for a scant hour at the dentist, I’m guessing they get a lot more revenue from a full day of emergency dental work than even a full day’s pay for a dental assistant. (I suspect it may be more than a full month’s pay for a dental assistant, in fact.)

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            She can’t make judgments on who Christmas is more important to. Her business requires staffing on that day, and she’s concerned about giving preferential treatment to one person that others would like as well. It’s not reasonable or fair to say “I’m going to give it to Jane so she can go to church, because Mary only wants to be with her family and that’s not as important.”

            1. mj*

              As an atheist who celebrates Christmas as a non-religious holiday, I completely agree with this. The holidays are a very important family time for me and I would be very upset if a new employee’s religious views were considered more important than my beliefs and my family time.

            2. EngineerGirl*

              She doesn’t have to make judgements. One employeed asked for religious accomodation, and the others didn’t. If it was as important to them, they would have already asked for relgious accomodation.

          3. Crazy for TEAPOTS!*

            I don’t see that AAM is confused. For the employer, this is a “business need” issue, not a religious issue, and that is what OP wants to know.

            Imagine if the employee had written the post saying, “Can my employer require me to work on Christmas Eve?”:

            I was just hired a dental assistant, and after I was hired I informed my boss that I will not work Good Friday or Christmas Eve for religious reasons. My new job is such that those happen to be busy days for surgery so everyone has to work. My boss offered me a half day because it is always an “All hands on deck” obligation for everyone as it is every year but I refused… Can I be fired for this?

            AAM Answer:
            The federal law providing you religious protection requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees’ religious practices, as long as doing so won’t cause “undue hardship” to the business. “Undue hardship” is anything more than minimal costs to the employer, which can include unfairness to other employees (such as the others who would like Christmas Eve off as well).

            However, this is all irrelevant because the law only applies to employers with 15 or more employees, and your new job is below that minimum. You’re legally able to be terminated for this.

            1. Christina*


              The employee should also keep in mind that by working in the medical field she should recognize that she may be required to work holidays and weekends. It’s not ideal, but it’s reality.

              The employee also has the choice to find an office that does observe Christmas Eve, Good Friday, etc. as a holiday.

              1. Crazy for TEAPOTS!*

                The employee also has the choice to find an office that does observe Christmas Eve, Good Friday, etc. as a holiday.

                ^ THIS THIS THIS!!!

          4. JT*

            ” a belief they hold to the very core of their being. ”

            Wow. I don’t believe in murdering people – or blatant lying. I guess that goes to the core of my being.

            But the strength of belief about holidays is something I frankly don’t understand.

            1. fposte*

              To be fair, I as an employer don’t have to understand it. I just have to determine if I can accommodate it without undue hardship to my business. I suspect that a no-Sundays belief, for instance, would be tough to accommodate in retail, but it would be pretty easy to accommodate in my current field.

              1. JT*

                Yeah, though I wasn’t clear here that I meant in life, not just in employment. Not killing people and not lying seem intrinsically important. Special days, not so much.

        2. Hari*

          True. Although I do agree with Engineergirl’s overall case of everyone getting an equal number of exceptions made but normally if someone took the day off a temp would not be hired so it does seem like special treatment in this case, just because of the temp.

          I know there is no fair way of dictating who gets Christmas off but I don’t think its necessarily unfair to the other employees if they were willing to make this sacrifice before this new employee (obviously if they continued to work there knowing they would be working holidays). It reminds me a little of the advice you gave OP#6 that they were happy working there until they thought the new person was getting favoritism. I’m sure the majority of people would like Christmas day off but if they had been willing to work it up until now, then its not unfair if someone unwilling speaks up and is accommodated for it. IMO its not the same if they would speak up now after all this time of being OK with it.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Hari – we’re talking about Christmas Eve not Christmas Day which IMO is a big difference.

            1. Hari*

              Sorry I meant to say Christmas Eve, I mention eve in my other posts. I actually was going to correct it but figured people would just know what I meant lol, whoops!

            2. Canadian mom*

              Not to everyone.

              My DS #2 has a Portugese girlfriend – and it seems that Christmas Eve is the major celebration as opposed to Christmas Day. That being said, I don’t know that there would be any major prohibition to working for at least a half day on Christmas Eve. But it remains that for some folks Christmas Eve is the big holiday, where Christmas Day is more relaxed. I once had relatives who had a heating emergency and ended up contacting a European heating contractor. They asked whether they’d be willing to wait till the next day (Christmas Day as opposed to Christmas Eve) and there’d be no after-hours fee that day.

              I would think that for anyone who knew that the job involved evenings/holidays every now and then – then you mention it during the job-acceptance process. If the boss can’t accomodate it (and quite possibly he/she can’t, especially if it’s an emergency clinic) then he/she can withdraw the offer.

  8. anonymous*

    #1 – My partner and I are both Catholic, but come from two different cultures. He probably wouldn’t mind working Christmas Eve, but I definitely would since I celebrate Nochebuena (Good Night). Although you may not “recall any such privilege”, keep in mind that not everyone practices that religion the same. It’s definitely a policy any potential employees should know about ahead of time, it saves you both from being in any difficult positions.

    1. Hari*

      Exactly! I know lots of families who actually have the tradition of opening presents on Christmas eve. This is especially prevalent in Eastern European cultures. But to add a non-religious spin to it families who do choose to celebrate it spend Christmas eve and day with different sides of the family.

      1. fposte*

        Though that’s tricky, because a cultural tradition doesn’t require accommodation under the law the way a religious conviction does. (That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wise for an employer to split hairs on the matter, of course.)

        I also think that the OP is using “Christmas Eve” to mean “December 24,” not working in the actual evening, and the activities you describe tend to take place in the evening and thus wouldn’t interfere.

        1. Hari*

          Oh I know legally there isn’t a case for it but from OP I got the feeling he was saying it wasn’t a legit reason and more of a cop out for not wanting to work that day from him saying ” I grew up Catholic and I don’t recall any such privilege.

          I agree that if the girl could work and it not interfere with her later plans that she should. However, we don’t know if she has an 8hr+ drive that day to make, so this could be a problem even if she agreed to work half day.

          1. fposte*

            Honestly, if she’s seriously hiding a desire for driving time behind a request for religious accommodation, I think the OP’s well rid of her right there. That’s pretty sketchy.

          2. Chinook*

            I agree. I think my issue is with that line from OP too. It makes me think that she thinks the employee is trying to pull a fast one just because she practices her faith differently.

            Again, I bring up the question to everyone out there – would it be different if Yom Kippur fell on the Saturday of the May long weekend (a big vacation weekend in Canada where people go to visit family/friends and/or naturd) or would you require your practicing Jewish employees to skip their religious requirements because it is a busy weekend for work? (my apologies if I picked a wrong holiday/date combo, but I hope you understand my point)

            1. fposte*

              I don’t know; I saw the wondering about the validity of the claim as being a separate musing, not anything that affected the OP’s ability to accommodate. And I don’t see any reason to think she’d be letting somebody of any other religion go on December 24th either. (It’s hard to compare to another day, since customer streams are going to be different on different days–if the clientele is strongly Jewish, there’s probably not a ton of custom on Yom Kippur, after all.)

              I think you’re right that the OP’s wondering about the validity of the claim *shouldn’t* affect the accommodation decision–as Mike C. says, it’s not really for anybody else to judge that. But since the discussion here makes it clear that a lot of people feel strongly about the day for reasons that really aren’t religious, I can understand why a question was raised in the OP’s mind about it.

            2. doreen*

              “Again, I bring up the question to everyone out there – would it be different if Yom Kippur fell on the Saturday of the May long weekend (a big vacation weekend in Canada where people go to visit family/friends and/or naturd) or would you require your practicing Jewish employees to skip their religious requirements because it is a busy weekend for work?”

              I’m happy you used this example- because it points out to me where the two sides differ. It is actually nothing like having the Jewish employee work on Yom Kippur. It’s like having the Jewish employee work on the day before Yom Kippur. Only if there were an actual religious requirement for Catholics not to work on December 24 would it be the same.

        2. Jamie*

          This. We also celebrate on Christmas Eve in my family, but that doesnt make it a religious holiday or something for my employer to accommodate any more than they’d accommodate a family birthday or mother’s day.

          There seems to be some conflating of the holiday celebrations with religious celebrations, which is understandable as Christmas Day tends to be both for many – but that doesn’t require employers to accommodate the non-protected aspect of the holiday.

      2. UK HR Bod*

        Coming from an Irish Catholic family, with an Eastern European partner – agree! Christmas Eve is the important day for most E. Euro Catholics (and possibly Protestants – don’t know) – but it’s easily manageable as the ‘eve’ bit – family time followed by Midnight Mass. The MM bit is when it starts more for the Irish / English Catholics. *disclaimer* – this is all theoretical for me, I’m an atheist! In the UK, Good Friday is a public holiday, along with Christmas Day (and Easter Monday, plus 5 other non-religious ones, more if you are in Northern Ireland or Scotland), but Christmas Eve isn’t. Of course, we haven’t been a Catholic country for some time, so the religious holidays are more in line with CofE – and seem more and more archaic given the changing religious demographic. However, public holidays are worked by most in service industries (not dentists or doctors though – you win there! And they aren’t free on the NHS either), and not even paid at OT rates in most places anymore. The public-facing side of my organisation makes sure that people know that everyone may be required to work any day except Christmas Day, and if anyone wants Good Friday, Yom Kippur, Eid, or any other religious date off, then they must book it as holiday (first come first served to suit operational need). Although we also have the requirement to accommodate religious necessities, it’s also within business need, and I’d be giving very similar advice to AAM. If our dentists were open…..

    2. Tamara*

      Although I agree that everyone practices religions differently, I’m not sure why this should be on the employer. Good Friday and Christmas Eve are not, in my experience, widely recognized office holidays. Even if they were, the employee should have brought this up before accepting the job offer. Not all companies offer the same holidays, so if there are a few in particular that are extremely important (especially if it’s religious), then being able to take those days off should be part of the employee’s consideration as to whether or not she accepts the offer.

      1. JT*

        “I’m not sure why this should be on the employer.”

        Because few people here own small businesses with employees, so they take the other side. That’s why…..

  9. Anonymous*

    1. Sometimes it is what it is. You need people who can work these days. I don’t think anyone is in the wrong here, it’s just that the needs don’t mesh well together. Now you know to be very specific that holidays are required, and she knows to check into an employer’s policy.

    7. We don’t always have to like the rules, but there they are.

  10. Julie*

    #4 – Probably doesn’t apply to the OP, but a lot of government jobs require a FULL employment history. My boyfriend worked as a seasonal employee for the Bureau of Land Management for about six years (forest fire fighter), and every year, he had to fill out an application that had him account for pretty much every month of his life since high school. And he was in his late 20s/early 30s. I get the sense that this is pretty common for U.S. government jobs.

    As I said, doesn’t sound like the case for OP, but it’s a possibility to keep in mind.

    1. Josh S*

      Good Lord! That’d be PAGES of jobs. Just off the top of my head, I can think of 5 current freelance clients, 3 former freelance clients, 10 former W2 employers, 2 businesses I’ve owned/co-owned (not counting my freelance business), 2 paid internships/fellowships, 1 elected local government position, and 3 volunteer positions at 2 different organizations that I would have to list. And I’m sure I’m forgetting some things.

      Heck, I probably couldn’t even tell you who cut the actual check for most of my jobs through high school and college. I mean, I worked summer jobs at the local pool–was it the park district, the city, or the pool itself that paid me? I have no idea!

      I’ve been working since I was 12 or 13 when I opened up a neighborhood lawn mowing business, flyered the neighborhood, and got a bunch of clients that kept my summer busy (and caused me headaches once school started again, while it was still warm out). I probably cleared $1000 in ‘sales’ that year, though most of it vanished after I had to repair my family’s lawn mower….oops!

      I’d stick to the relevant employers/positions from the past 10-15 years. Or if you want to be a stickler for it, you can list everything in your professional career after graduating from your highest level of education (or any full time jobs you had in between BA & Masters).

    2. perrik*

      This might have been common before, but the fed application process has been greatly streamlined recently. They now want a perfectly normal resume.

      But yeah, the applications which want everything are a bit ridiculous. Heck, I completed one recently that wanted the street address of my high school.

      1. Kate*

        The description sounded more like a background check than application to me and I can certainly see that (as a current federal seasonal). I’d also disagree about a “perfectly normal resume” – my federal resume is 7 pages and certainly not something I’d send to any other employer. (YMMV – I’ve just been burned by the new “improved” process.)

    3. Vicki*

      Then again, for many jobs (none of them government) I’ve been able to put “see resume” on the form and that was sufficient.

  11. Hari*

    OP#7, I feel your pain although like suggested since you are getting a discount to go to the gym it balances out, although assuming regular customers can still park in the further lot when you are off duty it really shouldn’t matter.

    Ridiculous parking story time. Reminds me of a parking situation at the last place I used to live. Although as a resident we actually paid for parking ($100 a month per car) they weren’t assigned and we had to share the parking space with shoppers, restaurant eaters and movie goers as the condo was on top of a mini shopping center and movie house. Usually parking would be OK to find but almost half the time we would be forced to park on the lowest level and on opening nights (for movies like Dark Knight) sometimes there wouldn’t be ANY parking and we PAID for this service. Management refused to number parking or give any sort of refund if we couldn’t park. Eventually once car break-ins started happening I just quit paying and parked on the street which was oddly enough safer as I never got broken into.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh! That is super annoying. Our ice rink always lets marathon runners and people who attend events in the adjacent outdoor park take over the whole parking lot (there is a car park down the street, but it sometimes charges if there is an event). People who actually show up to use the rink, and those who WORK there, end up paying for parking to come to work! When there is a whole lot attached to the building! They should block off a row for those people, but the city doesn’t care. They should have done this for residents where you lived. >:(

  12. nyxalinth*

    Am I wrong in thinking that #1 could have been sorted in the interview phase? The applicant could have said up front “I’m a devout Catholic, and I don’t wish to work X days for religious reasons” if it was that big of a deal. Also, the OP could have stated “We require that all employees work XYZ days.” Yes, this means the lady in question might have missed out on the job (not due to any discrimination, it’s an “It is what it is” situation), but it seems that her faith is very important to her.

    1. Amouse*

      I’m not even a devout Catholic but anyone who celebrates Christmas (at least anyone I know) realizes that Christmas Eve is considered as much a part of Christmas as Christmas Day especially when you throw in complicated holiday plans or cultures where almost the entire tradition is celebrated on the Eve such as where gifts are opened Chrismtas Eve.

      1. Tamara*

        Yes, but not all employees are Catholic. If having those days off is an important part of her life, she really should have asked about holiday benefits prior to accepting the job.

      2. fposte*

        But that’s the actual evening, not the office hours of December 24th. And “complicated holiday plans” aren’t religious–the law doesn’t require that an employee be accommodated to travel to family, for instance, or cook for a big gathering.

      3. Anonymous*

        I am Catholic, and I do celebrate both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and in fact, my ethnic background almost considers Christmas Eve the holiday rather than Christmas) but I am aware that I have no religious obligations on December 24 at all , that many workplaces are open their normal hours on December 24 and that if I am being hired in September or October, chances are good that an existing employee has already been granted Christmas Eve off if it is possible for anyone to take that day off.

        I don’t believe the OP ever mentioned the religion of the other employees- it’s entirely possible that one or more of them is also Catholic and would like the day off for the same not-really-required reasons as the new employee. Even if the OP can manage to give someone the day off, it seems presumptuous for the new hire to assume it will be her.

      4. JT*

        Amouse, the travel and shifting gift-giving to Christmas take this away from the Eve being a religious holiday and into wanting the day off for tradition/family reasons. Still valid, perhaps, but in a different way and perhaps a different degree.

      5. The IT Manager*

        Ummm, not the US federal government in which Christmas Eve is a work day and Christmas is not.

        As a American Catholic, I can’t imagine what religious activities the employee needs to take part in before around 3 o’clock on Christmas Eve. I recently arranged not to work Christmas Eve in part because I do not know if my family plans to get together and open presents on Christmas Eve (as we did when I was a child) or to attend a Christmas Vigil mass which may start as early as 4pm because we’re getting together on Christmas Day, but I am taking a vacation day. And I did offer to work the morning if the team needed coverage.

        While I sympathize with the employee in the US I’d expect most businesses to be open on that Chirstmas Eve and I think she’s being unreasonable. A lot of non-religious Americans would also probably like Christmas Eve off too (cook, clean up the house before the guest arrive, last minute shopping, play with the kids, etc) and the new employee demanding a day off that nearly everyone else would like off too but has always worked because the boss requires it is unfair.

        OTOH a lot less people celebrate Easter and remember Good Friday. I would expect that she could take that day off as a regular vacation day with minimal impact.

  13. ConstructionHR*

    Not really addressing the OP, but isn’t Christmas on a Tuesday this year? The eve being on Monday, I think a LOT of businesses will be closed on the eve rather than open for a day & then have a day off.

      1. ConstructionHR*

        Oh, I realized that. Just thinking that a long holiday weekend would be nice for the whole staff.

        1. Elizabeth*

          Which is precisely why many dental & medical practices will be open. There will be a lot of people taking 12/24 as a scheduled day off, so it is a good day to get in and get things taken care of before the end of the year.

          My own dentist, in a smallish community, works until 2 on December 24, because his practice is closed from Christmas Day until the first business day of the new year. His staff knows that they see back-to-back patients for the week or so prior to Christmas, because the practice is closed the following week.

          There are about 10 dental practices in town, and all but one of them is open on 12/24. That one is closed on 12/24, but they are the only ones open during the next week.

          Which practice a given hygenist works at depends a lot on how they feel about working on 12/24 versus working the week between Christmas & New Year’s.

          1. A Bug!*

            Yes, in fact, I’d wager that more dental offices than usual will be closed on December 24th this year than other years, meaning that many more potential emergency dental appointments for those offices which do remain open.

  14. LL*

    Many states have anti-discrimination laws that cover workplaces with fewer than 15 employees. In fact, 29 states have religious discrimination laws that cover workplaces with 9 employees. The OP should check for any state-specific laws.

    Although religious accommodations that infringe on co-workers’ ability to perform their duties or subject co-workers to a hostile work environment will generally constitute undue hardship, general disgruntlement, resentment, or jealousy of co-workers will not. Undue hardship requires more than proof that some co-workers complained; a showing of undue hardship based on co-worker interests generally requires evidence that the accommodation would actually infringe on the rights of co-workers or cause disruption of work.

  15. EngineerGirl*

    #5 – I can see where “union steward” could translate like a klaxon horn to “troublemaker” for some employers. So may I suggest the following?

    * In your resume, instead of using the inflammatory words “union steward”, instead use the softer words “steward – national association of chocolate teapot assemblers – local 222”
    * In your discussion of the job focus on problem solving, resolution, relationships, etc. Be the person who brings people together Vs sets them on edge. Can you do any of the following:
    – Assisted company in following federal law by…
    – Amicably resolved 32 greivance processes by working with all parties and….
    – Worked with upper management on focus groups to improve productivity…

    Note how the above are happy things. Can you emphasize how you are the steward who brought people together for success?

    1. fposte*

      I like these suggestions a lot. Honestly, in my (limited) experience union stewards tend to do a lot of cat herding, which I think is a pretty valuable skill.

    2. Jamie*

      There are a lot of valuable skills in being a union steward, but changing the verbiage to say steward with a local number still says union to anyone reading.

      If someone has an issue with union involvement semantics won’t matter here.

  16. Elizabeth West*


    Oh, thanks for this. It’s timely to me. Recently I reapplied to a job that I had previously interviewed for and it was beyond me, but it looks as if there is a similar position open in a different department that might be a much better fit. I tweaked my cover letter to reflect that and sent another resume. I also reapplied to another place I had interviewed eight years ago, before I got Exjob.

    Glad to hear it is okay to do that at least once. It was kind of hard to find something I could apply to this week. (I usually don’t just apply to anything for unemployment purposes, because what if I get an offer!?)

    #4–every job ever

    Bwaa ha ha!

    This might be relevant if it were a law enforcement job of some kind. Even for clerical positions, they WILL do a much more comprehensive background check on you than a regular company would. And the check for LEOs, especially federal, is INSANE.

    1. Blinx*

      Re: unemployment application quota — I hear ya! I had to force myself to finally apply for 3 jobs today to meet my quota for this week. Slim pickings! Can’t imagine what it’s going to be like at the end of the year!

      Re: #4 — My first job was for a private firm that worked on a lot of government contracts. After I was already hired, I had to apply for security clearance and list all of my time, working or not, since I was 18. Lucky for me it was my first job, and not now, decades later!

  17. Sandrine*

    About the Christmas Eve thing…

    I think it’s up to the employee to bring something up if it’s going to be so important. An employer shouldn’t have to track who is from which religion (that would be an odd chart to maintain for sure!) .

    Because no matter how you slice it, we ARE talking about an employer/employee relationship here. Which means we are talking about a business having business hours, open days, and other necessities.

    Had you told me the “office” was, say, a shoe store, I’d have said “Baah, just close it earlier!” (which is what is done in France… say your business usually closes at 9 PM, most of the time stores will close two hours earlier so employees can go to their families) .

    But, a medical office ? Like, are we *seriously* debating about staffing in a medical office ? “Lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine” doesn’t fly when it’s about a raging tooth infection that can happen at any given moment.

      1. Jen in RO*

        It’s not required in my job, but I would be happy to work Christmas and other holidays if I was compensated accordingly! My friend used to do this and everyone was happy – she got more money (she was living in a foreign country and she’s not religious, so she wasn’t missing any big family reunion) and her coworkers could take the day off for religious/tradition reasons.

        1. Jen in RO*

          And, in my family (I see people have mentioned above that this is an Eastern Europe thing), we have dinner and open presents on Christmas Eve. My company usually lets us leave around 3-4 pm on that day, instead of the usual 6 pm – but I don’t expect this to always happen and I always let my parents know that I might not make it on time.

          1. The IT Manager*

            This is interesting. In my American Catholic family, we went to mass and exchanged gifts (opened presents) among my immediate family on Christmas Eve. Santa delivered unwrapped presents to my brothers and me on Christmas morning. I do think most Christmas Eves my dad worked at least half a day, but my mom was a teacher so she was off with us. In adulthood I developed the idea that this Christmas Eve thing was odd, but perhaps not as odd as I thought. (There was also a “Happy Birthday Jesus” cake on Christmas Eve after mass.)

            The majority of my ancestors immigrated to a French or Spanish colony before American bought it so it’s not an Eastern European thing and not even a real family tradition from either of my parents. I think it was in part to pacify the kids a little bit on Christmas Eve and also so that by Christmas afternoon we could leave the house to visit family.

            I like it that way and I’m a little sad now that our family tradition has changed in order to accomidate my brother’s children and in-laws.

          2. Henning Makholm*

            I thought that was a Northern Europe thing. In Denmark, essentially the entire secular Christmas celebration (with family dinners, trees, presents etc.) happens on the evening and night on the 24th, and the 25th and 26th are slow days for recuperation and for seeing the half of the family you couldn’t be with for Christmas proper this year.

            The church, though, maintains that the actual feast day is the 25th. They grudgingly hold services on the 24th because that’s when the audience is there, but they are second-class events with the Eucharist and various other agenda points removed. I don’t know much about Catholicism, but I would have thought they, being generally conservative, would take this view even stauncher, and insist that the 24th is just an ordinary weekday.

            1. Chinook*

              Yes and no. Our practice is to recognize the evening before a day of worship as available for the same full service, which is why Saturday evening service is of the same “value” as Sunday morning. This really does allow us to work around secular schedules (which the employee really does need to do).

              As for Christmas Midnight Mass, it is HUGE in French Canadian Catholic tradition and important in the English tradition as a result (atleast out west where many parishes were founded by French missionaries). To accommodate families, there is often a 7 pm Saturday night “children’s” mass.

    1. Blinx*

      Agreed. If you need certain days off for WHATEVER reason, that should be made known to your employer before an offer is extended to you.

      Also, a big Christmas Eve celebration is not exclusive to eastern European Catholics. Although that’s my background, I eventually ended up going to a Baptist church (I know, right?). I was really surprised to learn their custom — Christmas Eve services at 5pm and 8pm (normal), but NO service at all on Christmas!!! That day was put aside for people to spend with their families. FWIW, for most of my career, Christmas Eve was not a holiday, but I usually had no problem taking a full or half day off if I wanted to.

  18. Anonymous*

    Growing up, my parents both worked in hospitals – which, of course, is one of those jobs where SOMEONE has to work holidays, because people still get sick on Christmas Day. I remember my parents bargaining with the younger employees – they’d work New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day if the younger employees (without children, etc.) would work Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Usually this worked out for them – but if it didn’t, they knew going into their line of work that the nature of the business is what it is and they weren’t always going to get their way. Sounds to me like your employee needs the same guidance – she went into a position (dental) where people get sick when they get sick, not always scheduled conveniently. Sucks, but it’s how it is.

    1. bradamante*

      I sorta think it’s OK to work on Christian holidays if your business is healing people . . .

      Luke 14
      New International Version (NIV)

      One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. 2 There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” 4 But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

      5 Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child[a] or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” 6 And they had nothing to say.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        Yup. I had to work on Christmas day under the Sisters of Mercy. FWIW, they did give us a nice dinner on our break. But healing ministry is an exception. And think about it – most of the “almost well” people were sent home, so the ones left in the hospital were sick, sick, sick. Burn victims, traffic accidents, and (fortunately) a few babies.

        BTW, in my family, it is Christmas eve that has religious significance, because that was when Jesus was born (not during the day). It was all about going to church service in the evening, and we still practice it. Christmas day doesn’t have the same significance.

        1. Evan the College Student*

          because that was when Jesus was born (not during the day)\

          Nitpick: The Gospels don’t give any specific time, and IIRC, the traditionally-assigned time is midnight on the night between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, because of an interpretation of one passage in the Apocrypha. Am I forgetting something?

          1. Laura L*

            Well… Jesus was probably born in the spring because that’s when the weather would have been mild enough for the shepherd’s to tend their flocks at night.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Law enforcement too. Also, they’re usually busy on holidays because people who can’t stand each other get together once a year, drink a lot of “special” eggnog, and get into fights.

      1. Chinook*

        I agree – I shudder at the stories my dh tells me about his Christmas shifts last year.

        Plus, if you are religious, there is a compromise if workload permits. I have had priests mentioned that the only cell phones/pagers allowed to ring during services are for those on call (I once had our organist leave half way through mass to deliver a baby). And those in healthcare often have a chapel available and, in a multicultural environment, can anyone begrudge those celebrating a holy day taking their lunch to worship? I suspect that it is what practicing Muslims do for daily prayer.

        Compromise and respect, as always, is they key on both sides.

  19. Anonymous*

    My husband works in a position where someone always has to be on duty, so they block off time during December and trade days, etc. It works out nicely. I’m guessing the employer doesn’t have a similar system and I think that’s the big issue here because employers in most businesses should have some system around arranging time off during the holidays. It is a time when many employees are likely to want to take time off either for family reunion purposes, religious observation, or the like.

    Of couse, you are in your right to completely ignore what many employees are likely to want, but I’m guessing having a good system would be a perk to staff and help with morale.

  20. Anonymous*

    Thus far, I’ve always had all my staff work on Christmas Eve. Those who do not celebrate the holiday all day have often volunteered to let others leave early, but I don’t ask anyone to do that. Even with that, I add the caveat that it’s only OK if we can handle it. As a public non-profit, we see more attendance as Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving Eve wind down. Anyone looking at our website would know we were open those hours. I would suggest anyone applying for work that deals with the public look up the hours ahead of time. When I was in advertising we closed Christmas through New Year’s, which was when I got all my dental and eyework done. :-)

  21. Julia*

    Why it can be good to reapply…

    I had an awkward interview somewhere and didn’t get the job, and then saw the same job posted a couple months later. I debated whether or not to reapply, but eventually just went ahead and re-sent my materials.

    I got invited for an interview again. When I went in I found that different people were interviewing me than before, and the job was slightly different than the first. This position was actually a much better fit for me. I left with a MUCH better feeling than I had leaving the first interview.

    I got the job, and I LOVE it. Its crazy to think that I almost missed out on this by not reapplying.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’m hoping this happens to me…although the lady I sent the resume to is the same lady. Seriously the only reason I couldn’t have done the first job is that it was accounting-related. If the other thing really IS another thing and it’s mostly paperwork (these are court clerk positions), I should be fine. She seemed intelligent. Hopefully she’ll figure that out.

      1. Asker of #3*

        That’s what I’m hoping, too. When I said the interview was awkward, I didn’t really mean that I crashed and burned. I meant that the interview went well, but when salary demands came up, I stumbled (I was told to never bring up salary during the first interview, so I wasn’t prepared for that.) I’ve actually kept up a good rapport with the two interviewers I spoke with before, so I’m getting everything ready to send in first thing tomorrow.

  22. M.*

    Catholic healthcare worker here.
    I routinely work Sundays and holidays – and consider this an actual act of charity towards society ;)
    In my (very Catholic) country, Christmas Eve is NOT free for anyone by default. Neither is Good Friday. If participating in a religious service is an issue, it’s a nice gesture on the part of the employer to give maybe an additional HOUR off.
    I do try my best to not work on Easter Day. The way I do it is to volunteer for days like New Year’s Eve which no one seems to want to take, either. Could the new hire offer to always work Thanksgiving? That would take away some of the bad feelings.

  23. anon*

    Regarding #5 – the employer doesn’t own the parking lots? Sounds like an insurance thing – liability issues and requirements trump employee convenience.

  24. Jamie*

    Just for the heck of it I looked on the Catholic calendar for 2013 and there are only 57 days of the whole year which aren’t Saint and/or Holy days.

    I wonder if it would cause my employer too much hardship if I got very devout and could only work 57 days a year?

    Kidding, but I bring it up to illustrate the point that no employer can just take a knee jerk approach to any day off in the name of religion because it’s a very slippery slope.

  25. Zee*


    Christmas Eve – Many families seem to treat Christmas Eve as many others treat Christmas Day. They get together for the big meal and then they open presents. Sometimes, like in my family, it’s extra time to see one side of the family, and then we’d see the other side the next day. Is it religious? Maybe only if the employee is planning on going to midnight Mass and wants to keep it an easy day to be all right at night. I think here the employee needs to compromise, especially if she is mentioning the religion factor.

    Good Friday – Good Friday, in the Catholic tradition, is a Holy Day of Obligation. There are eight of them throughout the year, and the main idea is to go to Church and pray on these days. Good Friday is meant for fasting and abstinence. These days of obligation are usually the “high holy” days of the Roman Catholic religion. I can see where the employee can mention it being of religion.

    Regardless of what is what here, I think the OP has learned an important lesson. The employee mentioned it first, from how I understand the write-in. Whatever happens with this employee, I think the employer needs to mention about these days to see if it is or isn’t a deal-breaker with the candidate. It just doesn’t seem like a good way this turned out. Employee or employer’s fault? I don’t know, but I think we know what the OP should do in the future.

    1. Jamie*

      I think the obligation to mention religious requirements is on the candidate with the requirements, not the employer.

      If you askEd abou regions obligations a candidate could wonder of the employer is trying to ferret out their religious affiliation if any, then wonder if they didn’t get the job based on their answer. It’s not unheard of for a rejected candidate to overthink the interview and put every innocuous question under the microscope.

      1. Zee*

        I see your point. However, there must be some way for the OP to find this out sooner than he did – in order to avoid the “should I or shouldn’t I fire because they refuse to work on a religious holiday?”

        Alison – Quick question. Why are some laws designed to protect when a company has more than x amount of employees? Does the reason come from the “undue hardship” clause since a small company relies on a small few to run the business?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve always assumed so — that the idea is that if you’re smaller, it will pose a much larger hardship to accommodate disabilities, religious requests, etc. …. although I’m not sure what the reasoning is for it when it comes to things like harassment or sex discrimination.

      2. fposte*

        I actually think it’s doable–you just focus on the telling instead of the asking: “We require employees to be available to work all holidays save Christmas, New Year’s Day, and St. Apollonia’s Day.”

        However, I’m still inclined to think that the obligation in this particular case was on the side of the employee, since neither day in question is an unusual one for a business to be open. Of course, a hiring manager could still include this information in the hiring process just in case; I suppose it wouldn’t take much time to do, but I’m a little resistant to that kind of defensive inclusion, especially since there will always be people who think somehow the statement didn’t apply to them.

        1. Anonymous*

          I think the employee should have mentioned the need for Christmas Eve and Good Friday earlier in the process. If the employer, the OP, says the area is largely Jewish, then the employee should know businesses and health care operations will be affected by the religious diversity of the population.

          While I don’t question the employee’s sincerity about religion, I was surprised no one mentioned the Italian habit of holding a “feast of the seven fishes” on Christmas Eve. This dinner can be a major undertaking.

          I suppose it is also possible that the employee is mixing religious devotion with the need to find travel time to visit relatives, but there’s no reason in the OP’s letter to infer this. I have just been thinking of reasons people like time off on Christmas Eve and Good Friday, and it’s not always about the religious significance as much as cultural or family traditions, as other people have noted.

          The bottom line is that the business is busy that day, and the employee should suck it up or find another job. I had to work for years on Good Friday even though I wanted it off, and the first time I took it off there was a major crisis (totally unpredictable and involving a vehicle whose driver was incapacitated) and I had to go in anyway. I am looking forward to being retired someday and not working on Black Friday, Christmas Eve or Good Friday.

  26. BW*

    I’m aware some Catholics do view Christmas Eve as a religious holiday. I can’t speak to whether it officially is considered a holiday by the church or not, but I certainly know people who consider it to be a religious holiday. Good Friday is an important Catholic religious holiday, so much so that in majority Catholic areas it can be a local holiday where businesses and public schools may be closed. It’s not that the employee is trying to pull a fast one which the OP seems to imply. That said, I don’t think the employer is obligated to give the time off, especially those days are crucial to the business. If the employee feels working any amount compromises her religious beliefs, she may be better off working in for an employer that will allow her to take those days off.

    FWIW, I say that as a Protestant who regularly requests Maundy Thursday off (which people think is weird, but it’s a busy day for the choir at my church, and Good Friday doesn’t require me to participate in services). I am empathize with the employee on this to some extent, but I also understand the needs to my employer and the need to be flexible.

    1. BW*

      Ugh I just totally wrote that somehow thinking inmy mind that the OP was the employer, not the employee. DUH!

  27. CarHR*

    For #4 – putting down jobs that have nothing to do with what you are applying for, If they word it that way, put down EVERY JOB. My current employer asks for ALL employment over the past 10 years. And if, while doing a background check or reference check, they find out there was another position you left off, the CEO feels that means you are trying to hide something or cannot follow directions. I think it is ridiculous, but it is something they will not allow us to edit on the application.

  28. STUDENT*

    Is it ethical for Catholics to be paid on Christmas day and Good Friday when they had a day off? Furthermore would it be ethical if Jew, Hindus, etc… request a pay when celebrating their religious days?

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