my employee is refusing to travel because her husband said she can’t

A reader writes:

I’m a manager who has an employee who recently (late last year) accepted a promotion that involves travel. It would be a maximum of one overnight monthly, but more typically one overnight per quarter. She accepted the position knowing that this level of travel would be required.

However, she told me last week that she will no longer travel because her husband told her no and her religion tells her to obey her husband. I said the role requires travel and she accepted the role just a few months ago knowing that, so I’m not sure if I accommodate her dislike of travel and keep her in the same role. She says it has to be accommodated because it’s her sincerely-held religion.

I also know her husband recently took away her car because “queens don’t drive.” He drives her to and from work every day. When he arrives to pick her up, which is early every day, she gets really antsy until she’s released to leave because she can see his car from her desk window. She can no longer attend external meetings alone because she doesn’t have transportation, which has created problems already (she was going weekly to external meetings maybe 10 miles away), but technically her job description doesn’t say she needs her own car so my boss thinks we can’t enforce that.

Currently, we’re working around her “dislike” of travel and taking other people from her team. But it’s not really fair that she got a raise and promotion, and these people didn’t, but they have to do the travel requirements of her job. Several of them have said if they don’t get the salary boost we normally give to routine travelers, they don’t want to travel.

I think I should tell her travel is a nonnegotiable and offer to return her to her previous position and salary if she cannot or will not accept the responsibilities of the new position. My boss thinks that once she’s invoked “religious preference,” our hands are tied, but agrees that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to try to accommodate inability to travel, whether locally or overnight. What are our options here?

I think you need an employment lawyer to guide you through this, so I talked to two on your behalf.

First, a warning: I’m going highly legal with this answer, because the law is ultimately the thing that’s going to determine how you should handle this.

Also, some brief background on U.S. law on religious accommodations at work: Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to employers with 15 employees or more, if an employee asks her employer to accommodate a sincerely held religious belief, the employer must attempt to accommodate that request, if it can do so without “undue hardship.”

But your situation is sticky for a number of reasons, so let’s turn to the lawyers.

The first employment lawyer, who’s a regular commenter here, said this:

This is very detail-based and in real life, it would require hours of discussion and research to know. All we can do is to guess. To get an idea of what we’re dealing with, look here.

My feeling is that this is not actually a religious accommodation, but you need to be careful. You should consider talking to a local attorney, because you’ll be pushing back on an accommodation claim and that always carries a degree of risk.

That said, I would not tolerate this. There are no specifics here, but “listening to your husband” is unlikely to be viable: obviously you don’t have to give a third party that much control over one of your employees. (Lucky for you, by the way. “My religion prevents travel” would be harder to deal with than “my religion says husband is boss, and he says no travel.” Usually the test involves a “sincerely held religious belief,” and typically those don’t change at the whim of a spouse.)

My approach would be that when you hired her, there was an expectation that she would have to get from point A to point B. She needs to be able to do that. If it wasn’t in the written description but has effectively been required forever, change the description. You gave her a promotion that requires travel, so take the promotion away. This is what I would say verbally.

In writing, I would be a lot more cautious with my wording. I would lay out the test for religious accommodations, how to engage in the interactive process. How to work with the employee to find another suitable position, etc. Then I would work with her, and the expected result would be that she ends up giving up the manager position. Remember, you don’t have to accommodate everything.

Regarding the “When he arrives to pick her up, which is early every day, she gets really antsy until she’s released to leave because she can see his car from her desk window,” I would not tolerate that. “When your husband arrives early you act unprofessional and antsy. This is not acceptable. It is no different from any employee who checks out before the work day is over and it needs to stop.”

Also, on a verbal basis you might want to consider a domestic violence referral or applicable state leave laws because this level of control is, to put it mildly, unusual.

I also talked with Bob Cooper of law firm Buchalter. His take:

There are really two questions at issue here: (1) Is the employee’s request based upon a sincerely held “religious” belief if it based solely upon her husband’s religious or moral beliefs? And (2) If so, is the employer left without a remedy other than to suck it up and pay the employee for travel she now refuses to perform?

The first question is a more difficult one, since it is not clear that the husband’s preference that his wife refrain from all travel or from driving a car to perform her duties stem from actual, sincerely held religious beliefs … Although it may be tempting to disregard the husband’s beliefs and the employee’s belief that she must obey him as nothing more than sexism, the law is now so broad and murky that challenging the authenticity of these things as “sincerely held religious beliefs” is fraught with peril.

But the answer to the second question provides the remedy to this situation. Accommodating the employee’s self-imposed travel ban is one thing, but paying her for work that she refuses to perform is quite another. Whether it means returning her to her former position, or paying her less since she is no longer performing the essential duties of the position she accepted, religious conviction does not entitle employees to a windfall for work they refuse to perform. It might be better to pay the salary difference to those employees willing to travel.

I asked Bob whether the fact that the travel is only one overnight a few times a year might indicate that it’s not what the law would consider an essential function of the position, and thus if legally it wouldn’t be considered an undue hardship for the employer to accommodate the request. Also, more broadly, isn’t this giving her husband unacceptably broad control over how the employer is able to manage this employee and assign work to her? His response:

If the travel is only one overnight a few times a year, you are correct that there is a good argument that it is not an “essential” function of the position, or at least one that can’t be easily accommodated. That is why the preference would be to keep her in the promoted position, accommodate her professed religious belief not to travel, but also determine whether the position being performed without traveling merits less pay, since other employees are forced to pick up the slack.

Secondly, you are also correct that there is a concern in giving the employee’s husband too much say over how the employer chooses to conduct its own business, simply because his wife is an employee. You could stand firm on this and fight this battle, and potentially win it. But given the morass that is our federal law on this subject, I would advise to reach for the practical solution and determine whether the position merits less pay if it does not include travel. This way, the employer is still dictating its own business affairs, but remains in a legally unassailable position.

So, there you have it, letter-writer. But this is just to get you started. These lawyers are not your lawyers, and you’re going to need one of your own to guide you through this.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 864 comments… read them below }

  1. Nan*

    Well, that’s a sticky mess. I think it’s highly unlikely, but it could happen, that she switched religions in the months since she accepted the job. If that’s the case, it could be a legit religious reason. However, it really seems like a controlling husband.

    I’m sorry that the employee, and by extension, the employer has to deal with him.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This screams DV to me. The sudden curtailment of the employee’s ability to travel (even to work), accompanying her everywhere, the anxiety when she sees him waiting outside. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s doing this b/c he hopes she’ll lose her Jonny or be demoted (which would increase her vulnerability).

      On the legal end, I agree with the folks In Alison’s response. But aside from the concerns re: failure to meet the terms under which she was hired, OP, I’d begin to look for help (and if you have competent HR, loop them in) on what you and your employer should do to avoid putting her at risk of greater harm. Don’t confront her about it, but know that there’s things you can do—without making public or wrongly assuming DV (b/c it’s possible that’s not what’s going on). Good luck, and please let us know how it goes.

      1. Hornswoggler*

        By ‘lose her Jonny’, do you mean lose her mind? Or lose her job? I’m asking because the only slang use I know for Johnny is old-fashioned British slang mean ‘condom’.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It was a typo from my phone! I meant lose her job.

          And wow. I can’t believe I accidentally wrote about condoms.

          1. Hornswoggler*

            Arf! Well, it gave me a moment of total incomprehension – you need at least one of those a day.

        2. nutella fitzgerald*

          Upon reaching “lose her Jonny,” I immediately began reading this in a Cockney accent. It just seems like it could be a thing.

          1. Jamie*

            Better than me. I thought ‘lose her Jonny’s was a euphemism for OP’s employee having an affair. I reread the letter a couple times to see where someone would get the impression infidelity was involved

        3. CoveredInBees*

          I’ve heard it used to refer to male genitalia, which would have raised more questions than it answered.

      2. Jade*

        That’s a good point. OP might want to help this employee keep some fashion of job as that may be the only thing keeping her from being totally controlled by her husband. It gets her out of the house and in control of something at least. Not that her employer is obligated to bend over backwards to appease her in order to keep her around…

        1. JessaB*

          Could they reapportion her salary for the job she’s willing and able to do then make some kind of travel bonus, which is paid on days when any employee travels so that whatever employee picks up the slack they get x for going somewhere overnight?

      3. The OP*

        OP here… My tendency is also to think it’s DV. But I didn’t want to get into an even stickier mess by suggesting to her that I see her religious practices as abusive. I have no idea if she’s happy with “obey and serve” or not.

        We don’t have competent HR (we have an accountant who also helps people fill out new hire paperwork). They never even discuss sexual harassment or benefits here so there’s no good/subtle way to discuss DV as a larger org.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ugh, OP, I’m so sorry. I know that HR sounds useless, but I would check in with the DV Hotline, just because they may have concrete guidance/suggestions on how to deal with situations like this. I think there are some clear ways forward when it comes to figuring out accommodation for her, but I worry about failing to take into account the possibility of DV because it could result in your employee being in an even more vulnerable position… That said, I agree that it wouldn’t be helpful to imply that her religious practice is abusive (because in theory, with a less controlling husband, it probably would not be considered abusive). I wish I could be more helpful—this is insanely difficult. But I’ve been impressed with how you’re approaching the situation, and I’m sending ~supportive vibes~.

        2. DJ*

          I’d also check in with the the religion in question peak or head body or progressive religious leader for advice.

    2. Emi.*

      No, she doesn’t have to have changed religions. Her religion doesn’t say “No travel,” just “Obey your husband.” So the travel restriction could be a new demand from her husband without the requirement that she obey him being new. It might still be a cover for DV (hell, it could be both), but the fact that it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s not a religious thing.

      1. Annonymouse*

        But it’s a really crappy thing for her husband to pull.

        Presumably they discussed what the promotion would entail (more money, attending certain meetings and travel) before she

          1. Annonymouse*

            then she should have refused the promotion based on her religion.)

            He can’t be cool with her getting paid more but then raising objections to her doing the work that is worth more and refusing to let her do it.

            You don’t get it both ways.

            Also this can set husband up to request all sorts of weird things that would interfere with the business that he has no right to.
            (To be clear I have no problem with a spouse objecting to a partner about unreasonable work requests and requirements. But this guy is setting up his own!)

            “Sorry. My husband/religion dictates I can only talk to and take orders from people who wear green hats.”

            I’m so sorry. My phone keeps jumping around and my keyboard disappears while I’m typing and I accidentally hit the submit button.

            Internet in Australia- ain’t it grand.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              But you’re assuming these restrictions existed when she applied for and accepted the promotion. As OP has now commented, circumstances changed after the employee had the job. The employee could have been acting purely in good faith.

      2. The Disapproving Brit*

        “Obey your husband” might be part of her religion, but her husband’s instructions only apply to her, not the company. He might get to dictate what his wife is allowed to do, but I don’t believe she can pass off his orders as a religious exemption. Her job requires travel, he is ordering her not to do that job. Religious exemption doesn’t enter into it.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Even if it isn’t the husband, it’s really not fair for her to get paid for work she won’t do (for whatever reason) and the other employees should be paid for doing it.

  2. TotesMaGoats*

    If Queens shouldn’t drive then they shouldn’t work. They are clearly too good for that sort of menial activity. (please pardon my outburst)

    This stuff infuriates me on so many levels. All that said, Alison is so right. You need a lawyer to help on this. I think you’ve gotten good advice and there is probably a work around that keeps her employed and the work needs met. However, I would absolutely address the antsy behavior with the employee. That’s just unacceptable.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I would also keep an eye out for other things to come up like not being able to ride alone in a car with a man who is not her husband, meet alone with a male colleague and things in that vein. Be prepared for that and have an answer ready.

      1. Michele*

        I really expected to see that come up in the letter as I was reading it. Her husband sounds like a jealous, controlling jerk who is using religion to keep his wife in line.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I know of a company with a lot of orthodox religious members, some of whom won’t shake hands across genders. But they will work with those people, have meetings with them, hire them, travel with them, etc. It’s not in practice much different from realizing “Cersei can’t shake hands because of arthritis, so that’s not the business norm when working with her.”

        1. Wild Feminist*

          I can see where you’re going with this, but I must disagree. Arthritis doesn’t discriminate based on gender. Someone refusing to shake someone else’s hand, solely based on gender, whether it’s religious or not, is discriminatory.

          1. SusanIvanova*

            There was a comment here some time back from someone with a similar coworker whose solution was to simply not shake hands with anyone.

          2. aebhel*

            It is a religious requirement for at least two fairly common religions that I can think of off the top of my head. I’m pretty sure you can’t force an orthodox Jewish man to shake hands with a woman he doesn’t know, or a hijabi woman to shake hands with a man she’s not related to. The obvious solution is for both to refuse to shake hands with anyone, but (at least in my area) the ban on cross-gender contact pretty well-known religious requirement for certain groups, so people would probably guess the reasoning behind it regardless.

            1. NPDBJ*

              Since we’re on the religion thing:

              *unmarried Orthodox Jewish women may not touch a man until married – I learned that the hard way when I put my hand out for introductory handshake and was politely rebuffed :(. Apparently it’s the same way with Jewish men, based on aebhel’s post above.

              * Muslim beliefs address this as well, but I don’t know the exact specifics.

              * Orthodox/Evangelical Christians do have this teaching about submitting to husbands, based on Ephesians 5, but there are all sorts of varying applications as to how it works, and it’s not as cut and dry as it sounds. There is a *very* bad tendency to read/teach ‘submit’ as ‘obey’, which is not at all what the text actually says, and the people who read it that way generally have all sorts of warped ideas about what it means to be a husband/leader instead of a provider/shepherd, which is the role that Paul intends.

              Sorry for the soapbox / rant – I’ve dealt with too many abuse cases to tolerate that kind of teaching.

              * And of course there are all sorts of small sects and cults that probably have beliefs on it as well.

              1. Candi*

                What ticks me off is if you read the whole chapter of Eph. 5, it’s about mutual love and caring – partnership. The context is important.

                But then, I have a personally high level of disgust for people who use out-of-context Bible verses/lines from other religious texts to justify horrid behavior. (Paul says elsewhere men and women don’t have to marry, either. In context.)

          3. Noobtastic*

            I disagree. I think you can only claim it’s discriminatory if it extends beyond shaking hands/touching to actually being unable to work with the person.

            I mena, I know a few people who don’t wash their hands after using the restroom, and I don’t want to shake their hands, but it never impacted my ability to work with them.

            However, if you go from “I can’t touch X” to “I can’t talk to X” or “I can’t work with X,” then you have a case of legal discrimination.

            See, shaking hands is not a legally protected right, after all.

      3. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        I worked with a Muslim woman who was very devout. One night she was scheduled to close the store we worked in with only one other person, a male manager. It was at this moment that I realized that some religions prohibited it. She was very direct and honest “My religion prohibits me being alone with a male other than a family member. Can I switch my shift with someone else?” (I created the schedule which is why she came to me.) My manager flipped out and threatened to fire her. She called HR and after a short meeting with the managers (myself included) HR educated us on religious discrimination. FWIW, I was willing to switch the shifts but my boss drew the hard line in the sand that he was then quickly forced to erase. So yeah…religion law is definitely a sticky wicket but just because the employee may limit one on one contact with opposite sex doesn’t mean there’s a DV issue. The employee I worked with was outspoken, feminist, single, and a devout Muslim. Not saying that the LW doesn’t have a reason to be frustrated, but just asking that we not automatically assume it’s DV either.

        1. LN*

          There’s a big difference though, between “my religion prohibits me from travel” and “my religion tells me I have to do whatever my husband says, and he says no travel” – as lawyer #1 pointed out. What we have here is not a person trying to live their life in line with a belief that they hold, keeping things between them and their higher power, but still making their own decisions. What we have instead is a third party exercising control over this woman’s life, to the point where it is jeopardizing her job – which he is almost certainly aware of, and might be doing intentionally to sabotage her life. The religion may be influencing how the employee views her husband’s authority, but it’s NOT actually the motivating factor in preventing her from travel, driving, etc – and that’s the cause for concern here.

          1. SCAnonibrarian*

            I get that, and it is a tricky thing, but there are some religious groups where ‘my husband has ultimate say over what I do’ IS a sincerely held religious belief between the person and their higher power. Part of their religious observance is to relinquish control of their lives consciously and fully to the person acting as the representative of the deity: in this case the husband. So the office isn’t necessarily getting out of it that way.

            1. WerkingIt*

              Something else to consider, what if the husband starts telling her how to perform her job, or what decisions to make. The employer has then essentially hired the husband. So let’s say she’s a nurse. The husband now decides that he doesn’t believe in painkillers and she can no longer administer them to patients. Or she’s an admin and he husband decides that a chronological filing system is best and she can no longer use the alphabetical system. Or in the FBI and he decides that he doesn’t think XYZ is a crime and she shouldn’t work on those investigations. I’m making that up, but what I’m saying is that by the logic of “what he says goes” could put the business in a situation where their employee is now acting on behalf of someone else.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                But that’s where accommodation comes in. It’s not helpful to speculate about a parade of horribles when what’s bothering you is the sincerely held belief.

                1. Turtle Candle*

                  I love “It’s not helpful to speculate about a parade of horribles,” because it’s absolutely true. And it tends to come up a lot when accommodations are at issue–it feels like every time there’s an ADA question, someone asks “but what if you have a blind person with a guide dog and someone who is violently allergic to dogs?” (And the actual answer, “you have to try to accommodate both, whether by having dog-yes and dog-no floors or by having someone work from home or whatever,” never seems to resolve the question; it almost feels like people expect it to be a “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” thing and don’t want an actual answer.)

              2. BPT*

                I think that’s where the line of “without due hardship” to the employer comes in. If your religion requires that you wear a head covering, most jobs can accommodate that without hardship. If your religion requires you to not give painkillers when you’re a nurse, your job can’t accommodate that without hardship.

                The line here is going to be whether the office can cover travel without hardship. The lawyers suggested a few things, like reducing her pay in accordance with the duties she can’t fulfill, and that might cover it. Or if it were a job where you have to travel once a week, it would be unlikely that the employer could accommodate her. But it seems like this travel is on the cusp and they have to figure out how essential it is to the role.

                1. designbot*

                  it seems like it’s especially the issue of the travel + the driving. So it’s not only one overnight per quarter, but also a meeting or so per week. Added together with her trying to pounce out the door right at the end of the day, and it’s death by a thousand cuts.

                2. BPT*

                  @designbot – Yes, definitely all those things should be taken into consideration, but legally I don’t know that they can be lumped together. I think not staying until the end of the workday is something that could be considered too much of a hardship to the company, so she could legally be required to stay.

                  Attending meetings (whether she drives herself or not) could also be something that the company says they can’t do without, so she could be required to attend those (although the method of travel would probably be up to her as long as she gets there, i.e. if someone’s religion said they couldn’t ride alone with the opposite sex and they had an alternate transportation method, that would likely be accommodated).

                  While all these things are definitely annoying and hard to work around, I think legally you have to take each job duty on it’s own.

              3. TootsNYC*

                well, but that’s perhaps when you say “not a reasonable accommodation,” and you terminate the employment.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  I was thinking, “We are not able to accommodate that.” It’s much harder to prove out what an organization could and could not accommodate.
                  This would be better if they were able to show where they had been able to make accommodations in the past but due to costs, limited amount of help, or other reasons this accommodation was not possible.

            2. Amy G. Golly*

              Heck, she could be the one who doesn’t want to travel, and is using the invented Husband Says Religious Exemption Clause as a convenient excuse to get out of it!

              It could be that he’s controlling and oppressive, but it could be that she’s perfectly fine with the arrangement. What makes me suspect that it might be latter is that she seems to have no trouble advocating for herself with her manager (re: the religious exemption), unlike past letter’s where the spouse intervened with the manager on the employee’s behalf.

              1. Rebecca in Dallas*

                That was actually my first thought.

                I knew someone who used to do this. If it was something she didn’t want to do (for example, do overnight inventory in the store she worked at), she’d say, “My husband won’t allow that.” and repeat as needed. She found that people just wouldn’t argue with it. (And she did tell me that her husband didn’t care what she did for her job, but it was her go-to excuse when she didn’t want to do something. This wasn’t a coworker, which is why I think she was telling me that, but I was still horrified!)

                1. A. Schuyler*

                  My father has occasionally encouraged my mother to use “My husband won’t allow it” because she’s a chronic volunteer even when it makes her stressed and unhappy. I don’t think that’s horrifying, just a convenient excuse. I’ve just realised as I’m writing this that I also use “My parents wouldn’t like that” well into my twenties, though never in a professional context.

              2. S*

                It could just as easily be that her employer is not going to kill her, or threaten to kill her, and she knows that. If the choice is between standing up to an employer and standing up to somebody who knows where you live, and controls your whereabouts, even if he has not threatened any sort of bodily harm, I think many people would have no problem standing up for themselves to their employers.

            3. Artemesia*

              The employer should then not have to pay her to do a job she can’t do. The obvious solution here is to put her back in the previous position that didn’t require travel, but of course Alison is right and a lawyer’s advice is needed. Also consider making these things a matter of contract in the future. There are people who argued they should be hired in a gynecological practice where the work involves dealing with birth control though they don’t ‘believe it is moral to provide birth control and so can’t participate in that.’ A blind pilot can’t demand to be hired to pilot an airliner and claim disability consideration; if you can’t do the job with reasonable accommodations you can’t demand it. If your religion forbids you from doing the job, then you can’t claim the job.

              But yeah — a lawyer needs to work this out.

              1. Natalie*

                Also consider making these things a matter of contract in the future

                I don’t think this would make a difference in the US. You can’t sign away your civil rights by contract.

                1. Nea*

                  I think the contract part is to make explicit that the position requires a certain amount of travel and ability to go to external meetings. That’s not the same as signing away civil rights, but does cover the company if the employee decides that they are not going to perform those functions regardless of reason.

                2. Natalie*

                  @ Nea, the courts have their own tests to determine if something is an essential function. I doubt the presence or absence of a contract would make a difference.

                3. Apollo Warbucks*

                  Also from what I understand it would be really odd for most jobs in the US to have an employment contract

                4. Annonymouse*

                  It’s less the rights I think than outlining the expected duties and tasks that go along with the promotion instead of a standard you are promoted to job, pay rate is now monies, hours are now more standard letter.

                  This way they can point to it and say “you clearly signed agreement that your promotion includes x,y and z. Since you can’t do that how we need to revisit this.”

                5. Natalie*

                  @Annonymous, that’s not really how religious accommodation works. (Or medical, for that matter.) It makes no difference if the employee agreed to it at one time, they have a right to reasonable accommodation at any point that it becomes necessary. And “reasonable” isn’t ultimately up to the employer.

                6. Annonymouse*

                  hence why I said “revisit” this.

                  They can sit down and discuss what the employee can or can’t do and work out a reasonable compromise or solution that doesn’t involve hardship to either party.

                  I have full sympathy for a medical issue that comes up – we can’t predict these things and how they will impact us.

                  Religion is a bit more of a grey area – because I think the tennents of it shouldn’t change on a whim. It’s different if something wasn’t in direct conflict with the beliefs or rules before but would be afterwards – but that’s nots what has happened here.

                  I’m less sympathetic in this situation because presumably wife talked to husband before or directly after accepting the promotion (for example bosses just announced it to her with no prior discussion and she discussed with husband when she got home)

                  At that point it should have been clear if it was going to be a problem and revisited for discussion. Not 3-4 months afterwards.

                7. Annonymouse*

                  Of course this assumes something didn’t come up 3-4 months down the track that wasn’t apparent at first.

                  I.e to go to the overnight you have to travel with Bill and your religion forbids you from being alone with a non male relative.

                  A reasonable accommodation is to go by yourself in a car or stay at your regular office and Skype in.

                  The travel itself isn’t the problem rather the details around it.

                  Unreasonable is to forbid travel knowing its part of the job but still collect a higher salary that includes money for travel inconvenience.
                  When travel exclusions aren’t part of your religion.

                8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I’m with Natalie on this on all counts.

                  But it’s also important not to opt for demotion without going through the iterative accommodation process. If the travel is important but not crucial/core to the position, or if it could be covered by others with minimal difficulty, then that might be a more fair/reasonable accommodation (assuming the employer works out the related compensation issues). The important thing is to go through the options with a relatively open mind.

          2. Tuxedo Cat*

            I’m not sure how much it matters re. religion, but the first statement is pretty clear. Obeying one’s husband- that’s a potentially moving target and in this case, one that will be moving and seemingly more controlling.

            1. aebhel*

              Exactly. The travel thing may be manageable and may not be, but the employer can’t commit to accommodating whatever rule her husband comes up with just because her religious belief requires that she obey him. That’s where ‘reasonable accommodations’ come in.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              As others have said they have basically hired her husband not her. I doubt she is able to predict accurately what else he will not allow. They thought they entered into an employment setting with her and now it turns out they are in this setting with two people.

        2. Leslie*

          Hmmm feminist and muslim. Sorry but that’s like oil and water. They can colour it any way they want, but the two do not mix.

          1. Reva*

            Muslim feminist here. Considering my faith tells me the first convert to Islam was a woman, I would say that yeah they mix. Have a great day.

          2. The Sassy Vulcan*

            Do you say the same about Christian feminists or Jewish feminists? Because Islam is an Abrahamic religion. It sounds like you’re responding out of knee-jerk Islamophobic stereotyping instead of actually talking to Muslim women and hearing their thoughts and experiences. You might want to reconsider that. (Note: I’m a former Christian by birth converted to paganism, so I’m an outside observer on this).

      4. Noobtastic*

        Once, when I was in charge of arranging the monthly carpool for an off-site event, I had to deal with a few cases of this. One was “Can’t ride alone in a car with a person of the opposite sex,” and the rest were “Can’t stand to ride with so-and-so.”

        Other than the riding arrangements, it did not affect the workflow, and since we accommodated “Can’t stand to ride with so-and-so,” it would have been churlish not to accommodate a religious need to avoid riding alone in a car with a person of the opposite sex.

        The thing is, what is the difference between a REASONABLE accommodation, and an unreasonable one? Reasonable means that it does not adversely affect workflow. Unreasonable is what’s happening here, with the OP, where the employee cannot (or will not) fulfill all of the job duties she agreed to take on with the promotion.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          No, that’s not the legal definition or test for reasonable vs. unreasonable, and it’s not clear from the letter that the current setup is inherently unreasonable.

          We don’t measure “unreasonableness” from the perspective of individuals who disagree with the employee’s sincerely held belief. The test measures reasonableness based on whether or not the suggested accommodation—not the employee’s religious limitation—poses an undue burden. The EEOC has noted that things like allowing flexible scheduling, switching shifts, and job reassignments are all types of reasonable accommodation. In OP’s case, both flex scheduling and job reassignment could be appropriate.

    2. Michele*

      In a similar situation, years ago, I was a supervisor in a restaurant, and one of our servers had a controlling jerk of a husband who would come in near the end of her shift and decide when she was done, even if she wasn’t. I spoke to her about it, but she wouldn’t stand up to him. I spoke to him about it, and he repeated his behavior–once. Then I told him that he was not allowed on the property. As messed up as their relationship was, it wasn’t my place to fix it, but I could make sure that he didn’t extend his behavior to our work environment. LW might need to do something similar.

      I do agree that a company lawyer needs to be involved. I also feel bad for the wife. What a horrible way to live.

      1. Circles*

        I also worked with a lady whose husband was similar. For example, our working hours were listed as “4 to closing”, which meant all the cleaning/stocking/prepping for the next day after the store closed. They told every employee this during the interview process. After she had been working for awhile, she came in one day and told us he had sold her car and would be transporting her to and from work. We closed at 9 and usually had at least an hour of cleaning/stocking/prepping to do. When she was driving herself, she always worked quickly stating she needed to get home and now that her husband was driving she began asking to leave early. The manager said no, we have to clean and prepare for the next day. The very next night her husband banged on the door after closing until the manager went to see what was wrong and the husband said his wife needed to leave right then. We were all a little frightened of him after that so the manager asked her brother, who was a police officer, if they could send a car to drive by once or twice around and just after closing to see if the husband would back off.

        A few days later, her husband came in before we closed and told the manager that since her time was listed as “4 to closing”, she needed to leave at 9 when the store closed. The manager said no, that is not how we work and I told your wife when I hired her that she had to stay and help clean and prep for the next shift. The day after that, the wife called and quit.

        I saw her and her husband a few times after that in stores or around town. He always seemed tense and angry and she was seemed jumpy and frightened. If I tried to speak to her at the grocery store he would answer for her. I still seem them occasionally, but I never speak to them because of the husband.

      2. Dizzy Steinway*

        “she wouldn’t stand up to him”

        As a DV survivor I’d like to say that, in these sorts of situations, it’s can’t, not won’t.

        1. AthenaC*

          Exactly. What people don’t realize is that when considering the totality of that person’s perspective, it is far worse for them to stand up to their SO (and reap the consequences) than it is to impose upon their non-abusive coworkers’ goodwill.

          1. Dizzy Steinway*

            For me it just wasn’t possible. I mean, I tried, early on. But the violence, gaslighting, sleep deprivation and suicide threats meant it was just not on the table as an option. And that I no longer knew my own mind.

            I realise this may just be semantics, but I do feel the need to say something when any person (of any gender) with a controlling partner is described as acting with full and free will, agency and capacity to make rational decisions.

            1. Starbuck*

              It’s really interesting (and helpful) for me to hear this perspective, because having never experienced such a relationship I would feel like I was insulting the victim or being patronizing if I made the assumption that they weren’t capable of making their own decisions or acting rationally.

              1. Lora*

                Sometimes doing what the abuser wants you to do IS acting rationally, in the short term anyway. “Make his favorite meal, which I hate but it will take 30 minutes even though I’m really really tired” vs “3-hour shouting match which ends in a top volume string of insults and then I am even more tired and didn’t have” is not an irrational calculation. Plus, you never do know what is going on behind the scenes: maybe she is quietly acquiescing to his demands no matter how irrational so she can buy herself time to set up a separate bank account to squirrel away some money to leave, maybe it was “either I drive you to work every day or you quit your job and be totally dependent on me” and quitting means she loses ANY chance of getting out.

                It’s complicated.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Yes, this. I think folks don’t realize that people who are being abused may make rational choices to “give in” to their abuser’s request because they’re trying to avoid the more severe/extreme reaction they believe will come from disobeying their abusive partner. When someone is in an extremely coercive and volatile/dangerous situation like DV, it’s not a fair comparison to measure the reasonableness of their behavior by what a person in a non-abusive, non-coercive situation would do.

              2. Dizzy Steinway*

                I think you can safely assume that anyone who is in an abusive relationship has had their ability to choose and to reason severely curtailed – but you can’t necessarily share that conclusion with the person. As to how to tread this line in real life situations, I’d recommend seeking advice from professionals about how to approach things.

            2. AthenaC*

              No, you’re right – there is a difference and it’s not just semantics. I’ve been there, too, so I know what you mean.

              The reason I chose to express it in that way is to show that even if a DV victim is acting with full and free will (which, let’s be honest, is the assumption that virtually everyone is walking around with), standing up to an abusive SO is still not a rational choice.

              1. Dizzy Steinway*

                Yep, got that and wasn’t disagreeing – you were very clear and eloquent in your expression. I’m sorry you’ve been there too.

            3. RVA Cat*

              It’s like when they say “why don’t they just revolt?” about people living under a dictatorship. If only it were that easy….

            4. Not So NewReader*

              Not knowing their own mind is the abuser’s goal. That is the point of total control when the partner cannot think through the simplest things on their own out of fear/confusion/etc.

              1. Candi*

                Or you’re just so sick and tired that even though you have your own very secret thoughts, you can barely stand to get through the day. Constant stress, living in an environment where you can’t sleep, just enduring and never seeing the end. It’s hell.

        2. JessaB*

          Thank you I was about to say the same thing, please let’s not presume an agency that many abused people are unable to perform.

        3. Althea*

          I don’t want to downplay your experience or point of view, but as an outsider I find this statement confusing. For me, just because one doesn’t recognize her agency doesn’t mean she doesn’t have it; and just because 2 options for action are both bad doesn’t mean the choice isn’t made.

          Is it not a helpful perspective to point out the victim has agency and attempt to get her/him to recognize it?

          Not trying to fight, I don’t have personal or professional experience with it and I see a lot of people agree with you, but I don’t get it.

          1. The Sassy Vulcan*

            That’s like saying telling me (a person with mental illness) that I have the ability to just get out of bed and clean the whole house even when I’m severely depressed. I could physically do it, sure, but my brain does not have the capability. People who are severely abused have had their brains so altered and their reality so skewed that they are mentally incapable of making the choices that you think they “should” make.

            And that’s just from a mental perspective. You’re ignoring the fact that most women are killed when trying to leave an abuser, that kids and custody might be involved, that pets might be involved, that the abuser may own the house and the car and all of the money in a bank account in his name, that police often can’t or won’t do anything in these situations, that restraining orders are useless. Many victims are physically unable to just pick up and leave, even more are mentally unable to do so. They don’t have agency. Their agency was taken from them by their abuser. It’s part and parcel of abuse and domestic violence.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        If she wants to live that way and it IS the religion (I’ve seen it; I worked with someone who followed this faith), then I doubt she feels it’s horrible. Of course, it does look like that to us, because that’s not how we choose to live.

        I’m not saying there isn’t DV involved–there may be, but we don’t have any indicators of that. All we know is that she says this is their religious practice, and it is a practice that exists. The person I worked with was very happy to follow it. It’s how she feels she should express her faith. The only complaint I ever heard from my coworker was that she would have liked to have gotten a perm but she wasn’t allowed to cut her knee-length hair.

        1. Katherine*

          Just wondering how you know which religion it is. I can think of two mainstream religions and a number of branches of others where the rule of male superiority may be followed to this extent. Are there hints that I’m missing?

          1. Parenthetically*

            My initial thought was Christian fundamentalist, but I googled “queens don’t drive” and all the results are from a Muslim fundamentalist, specifically Saudi Arabian, perspective.

            Of course the irony being that Queen Elizabeth for one certainly does drive, famously, and did so in service to her country during the war.

        2. Grace*

          With the spread of NeoCalvinism in churches across the United States we are seeing more and more of this type of thing.

          For my refusal to obey and submit to my pastors/elders on this point at a Silicon Valley church, and a few other points, I was ordered to be excommunicated and shunned from my church of 8 1/2 years before several hundred people. They were told to never speak to me again. To call me to “repent”. That included telling that to members who are students at the elite Stanford University. It happened to a wonderful doctor in his 70’s before me and to a middle-aged woman in finance before the good doctor.

          But honestly, I’m glad they kicked me out. It was a toxic , destructive, cultic church and women were 2nd class citizens and children were 3rd class citizens.

          Life is better now.

      4. TootsNYC*

        Actually, this might be a way to handle the end-of-day antsiness.

        Tell her that her husband has to pick her up from some place in the parking lot where she cannot see his car. Or that he’s not allowed to arrive early to pick her up.

        1. Michele*

          Thank you. People are getting fixated on the use of the word “would” and deciding that any employee with a controlling husband has no agency. It is not the employer’s responsibility to police the marriage, and it is intrusive and insulting to suggest that it is. The employer can say that the marriage isn’t allowed to interfere with work, though. The husband isn’t her boss at work, and he needs to respect that. And that might mean that he can’t show up in the parking lot half an hour before her shift ends.

          Someone above posted about a husband who was a psycho and obviously a threat to his wife and her coworkers requiring police intervention. In my case, though, this big, tough guy in his 40s was completely shut down by a 20 year old college student who made it clear that she wasn’t going to put up with his garbage. LW might just have to go out the parking lot and tell the husband that he can’t be there.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Yes. The employee’s faith may require her to obey her husband, but that doesn’t mean that the company has to obey the husband. “We don’t allow people to wait in the parking lot,” or “Non-employees are not permitted on the premises without a visitor’s pass (which are issues at discretion when there’s legitimate business)” are entirely reasonable policies. And since neither of them requires any action on the part of the employee at all, it doesn’t trigger the religious accommodation issue.

            Since the husband doesn’t work for them, they have no duty to accommodate his sincerely held religious belief that he is God.

    3. AthenaC*

      Agreed. Also, I’m aware that I’m speculating, but I’m willing to bet that he told her that he expects her to be out the door and in the car as soon as she shows up. That him arriving in the car is as good as a direct order to stop work and come home. And her antsiness is coming from the tension of managing husband’s orders vs. professional responsibilities.

      If that’s where it’s coming from, I struggle to see how such a relationship model is compatible with employment. Which is awful for her, of course, but it also sucks that it places a burden on well-meaning, perfectly reasonable employers.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think we should be careful, because we don’t know if this actually is a “relationship model.” He sounds inappropriately controlling, and I suspect the antsy-ness is a fear response. I would urge compassion and to take a step back to determine what’s workable and what is not (which may require demotion). In the off chance that she’s in a dangerous relationship, treating her as if her situation is her choice might assign agency and blame to the wrong person. I’m not saying this excuses her failure to meet all expectations, but it may alter or inform the mindset with which OP approaches her.

        1. AthenaC*

          I don’t disagree, but I really am trying to stay focused on the employer and their reasonable expectations. Because of some things I’ve been through, everything about this letter is raising red flags for me. I could write for days about the corrosive impact relationships like these have on a person and how awesome it would be if there were a way to put this guy in his place without risking even greater harm to the woman. But none of that is going to help the OP, nor is it going to help that poor woman.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I don’t disagree—it’s why I’ve posted a bunch of resources for employers and why I’m encouraging OP, as the employer, to consider that this issue may have an overlay that should not be ignored when figuring out how to move forward.

          1. RVA Cat*

            I do think the employer needs to come up with a response plan in case the husband storms into the office one day. Does the building have security?

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          Well, “her situation” may not be her own choice; but her employer’s situation was. Even if she’s in a dangerous relationship that she’d like to get out of but can’t safely, she accepted a promotion. I’m assuming that, as promotions usually do, that took place during work hours, when husband wasn’t present, and he had no way of knowing it was offered to her without her telling him so.

          At that point, she had three choices, and he couldn’t, in the immediate moment, control any of them. She could say yes, which is what she did say… and by saying that, she committed herself to meeting the stated requirements of the new job. She could say no, if she thought her husband mightn’t be willing to let her fulfill all the requirements of the new job… and if she also felt he might want her to accept the promotion anyway because of more money, she could then have not mentioned at home that it was ever offered. Or she could have said, “Thank you! I’m certainly interested in it, but because of the new travel commitment, I’d better talk about it with my family before I say a firm yes. Can I give you an answer tomorrow?”

          This is a pretty reasonable professional response, and it would have allowed her to find out if he were going to let her do the thing as it was, travel and all, or if she’d better refuse.

          By choosing the first, (and least flexible-to-husband’s-wishes) of these, she dumped the task of managing her husband’s expectations on her company rather than taking them on herself. And she seems to be quite content to continue dumping it on them, or she wouldn’t be addressing it with them by saying, “Well, that’s my sincerely held religious belief, so there’s nothing you can do about it.” She’d be saying, in mortified tones, something along the lines of, “I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t realize my husband was going to be like this about it; what can we do to fix this? I really CAN’T do the travel now, but maybe I can do some other task that the people who are doing my travel for me really dislike, instead? That way, at least I’d be helping to balance out the scales.”

          In other words, someone who is trying to navigate the work world in a professional way while having to cope with the vagaries of a domineering or abusive partner typically tries desperately to throw their own effort into the gaps between their employer’s needs and their partner’s demands. They don’t want to refuse a legitimate work requirement, but they *can’t* refuse a demand from their partner… so their solution is generally to deprioritize their own wishes in order to satisfy both. It doesn’t always work, but at least there is some sign that they’re making the attempt.

          That’s not what I see in this case. I see a smug certainty that neither she nor her husband should have to give up anything, or solve this problem; it should be entirely the employer’s responsibility to solve it for them, in a way which doesn’t put her or husband out at all. Someone who had a dangerous partner but truly wanted to be as professional as possible would instead feel that neither husband nor *employer* should have to give up anything, so it was *her* responsibility to solve it in a way which didn’t put either of them out.

          And yes, I’ve had a dangerous partner before.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think you’re reading a lot into the employee’s conduct that we truly don’t know, and I profoundly disagree with you.

          2. LN*

            I really don’t think we know enough about how the employee is presenting these rules to make this call. She might have been embarrassed or mortified; the OP doesn’t say. And not everyone reactions to abusive situations in exactly the same way.

          3. SystemsLady*

            Or she (at the time) quite reasonably thought such a small thing wouldn’t be a problem, then the first time she mentioned it coming up he blew up, and he’s been getting progressively​ worse ever since.

            I’m sure you didn’t know your dangerous partner was dangerous right away, after all.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              No, nobody does. And yes, that’s possible. I thought from context that she had been married to him before the whole promotion thing came up, which would make it likely that the relationship had been going for a while… but that’s likely, not certain.

              Of course, even if it had, there’s no way to tell, much of the time, exactly *what* will set off an abusive partner. She could perfectly well have thought that he’d be fine with it, and even been told that he’d be fine with it when he was more focused on the extra money from the promotion and in a mellow mood… and then when the requirements which came with the promotion were​something he actually had to deal with, he didn’t like them so much.

          4. ellis55*

            I pretty wholly agree with this for *me* as a DV survivor. I was pretty constantly performing some epic verbal and mental gymnastics to manage the gap between what I knew to be reasonable and what I could sell to my partner.

            That said, I can also see how with the appropriate amount of gaslighting, sleep deprivation, etc. I could have been convinced that my employers were unreasonable and not to be trusted. I mean, I had a (brief) stretch where I cut off contact with my OWN FAMILY at the end because I was convinced their concern was actually destructive rather than real.

          5. Mookie*

            I see a smug certainty that neither she nor her husband should have to give up anything, or solve this problem

            There’s no need for hyperbolic insults. There’s plenty of good, empathetic advice for all concerned above and below your comment.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              I’m sorry. You’re right that I was harsh in the way I said that, but I do think there’s a significant point in there, so I’m going to try again.

              I don’t see, from what the OP has told us, any indication that the employee has attempted to work with them to produce solutions to this situation. The only thing she’s been described as saying about it is “You have to accommodate it, because it’s a sincerely held religious belief.” That is, in my eyes, a performance problem in itself; not just in that she’s failing to perform necessary job duties, but in that she’s not showing the kind of initiative I’d expect to see from an employee who brought any problem to me, whether it’s a religious objection to a job function, or “I can’t get through to X for authorization, add or deadline is coming up.”

              I would expect to see any employee who tells me, “I can’t do Z,” for any reason, to follow it up with one of two things: either, “… but I could do A and B and make that work instead via Q,” (or its variant, “… if you let me do A, and I can ask Zena for help with B, I can make it work instead via Q” — initiative doesn’t mean that all solutions need to be implemented only by the proposer!), or else, “I just don’t know what to do about this one, boss; please help me brainstorm ideas?”

              In any of those cases, the employee is making it their own task to figure out a solution to the problem. Sometimes with assistance, and that’s fine, but never taking themself out of the process or just shrugging it off as not their problem.

              You correctly called me out for seeing selfishness in her behavior where I didn’t have enough data to see that. But what I don’t see is almost as important: I don’t see any action on her part which takes ownership of the problem and tries to participate personally in creating a solution.

              If she in fact has been doing that, then the OP left out some highly relevant information. If she hasn’t, she’s showing a dismaying lack of investment in her job. I don’t know which it is, but we generally have a policy here of not assuming the OP told something incorrectly or left important pieces out, so I’m not going to go that route.

      2. BeautifulVoid*

        Maybe it’s overly simplistic and/or jerky of me, but I’d be tempted to move her desk/workspace into a windowless room….

        1. AthenaC*

          So, here’s how this would likely play out:

          – Day 1: Wife is “late” coming out because she can’t see out the window anymore. Once in the car or at home, he starts in on her. She explains that she can’t see out the window anymore. Husband says it’s still her responsibility to be done and ready to go when he shows up so he orders her to do what is necessary to make that happen.
          – Day 2: Wife suddenly has to urgently “go to the bathroom” at 4:55 on the dot, which serves to release her from whatever is going on at the moment. She slips out to wait for him.
          – Day 3: Same as Day 2. (and so on and so forth)

          Beyond Day 1, you’re not likely to get any more work out of her. In fact, you’re likely to get LESS work out of her. And I didn’t even touch the possibility that Day 1 would piss him off enough to issue additional obnoxious “orders” to her that would be even more troublesome.

        2. AMG*

          I thought of that too. She is absolutely not to pack up her things or shut off her computer and leave before 5pm. IT can help ensure that computer is on through 459. In fact, I would be inclined to schedule meetings in a conference room from 4-5pm, so no checking the cell phone an fidgeting.
          I also know people who absolutely would be holding daily meetings from 430-530 or whenever, as well anything else they could do to challenge the husband and push her out. It’s not right, but I guarantee many people would make both of them miserable in countless passive-aggressive ways until she left, religious accommodation or not.

          1. Agnodike*

            Would you really want to engage in a power struggle with the spouse of an employee, with that employee caught in the middle? I sure wouldn’t.

            1. AMG*

              OP is already in one, and no, I don’t think anyone would want this. It’s unacceptable and can’t be ignored.

            2. Anna*

              While I agree with your sentiment, I would argue the power struggle already exists and the OP is trying to figure out how to step out of it, or at least take care of their responsibility without ceding ground to the husband. Because they shouldn’t have to.

            3. Mookie*

              Yes. Hovering over this employee like she can’t be trusted is no way to manage. This needs to be properly sorted, rather than using parlor tricks to try to outmuscle her husband (who sounds loathsome).

    4. Mel*

      The husband’s availability to drive her every day makes me wonder if he himself is employed at all…

      1. Rye-Ann*

        Eh, my husband usually drives me to and from work, but he is employed – at a place about a minute’s drive from mine. Even if it weren’t super close we could probably make it work as long as our schedules were pretty similar.

        1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

          Agreed. My husband and I have shared a vehicle for the last 15 years for no other reason than we’re too cheap to buy a second vehicle just to make it a tad more convenient. We work close to one another, similar schedules, and have a schedule for extra-curricular events that seldom overlap. It doesn’t make sense to add another car payment, insurance, gas and upkeep to the budget when the one car works fine.

          1. JessaB*

            Every time we have two vehicles something jinxes Mr B’s car. We have given up after selling the last one recently because neither of us could get into it (it’s a truck and we’re disabled.)

        2. Jamey*

          Yeah, I agree, my fiance drives me to work but we work close by each other and I have flexible work hours so I just start work 15 minutes earlier than him and finish 15 minutes after him so he has time to commute after dropping me off and before picking me up

        3. CanadianDot*

          Ditto here. We have one vehicle, and parking is so much cheaper at my husband’s work that he ends up being the one to drive. Also, because I get EDO and he doesn’t, it also means he works a shorter day than me.

          However, if he gets to my work a few minutes early, he’s not freaking out about me getting out there ASAP.

          1. Anja*

            If it’s the same as what I have it’s “Earned Day Off.” In the case of many people at my work they’re supposed to work 67.5 hours in a two week pay period. In a standard schedule you’d work 6.75 hours each of the ten work days. In the EDO schedule you’d work 7.5 hours a day for nine days and then have an extra day off (usually every second Friday or every second Monday).

      2. Dizzy Steinway*

        My husband also drives me to the train station in the morning on his way to his own job.

          1. Dizzy Steinway*

            I hadn’t even thought about it that way round (I was thinking more in terms of: this isn’t necessarily a red flag on its own though obviously there’s a bigger picture) but… you’re right.

          2. Liane*

            You’re right, and absent the other stuff–no travel, her “checking out” mentally when he arrives, etc.–there’d be no Job Problem.

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          Same, and I consider myself so lucky that a 3 minute drive literlaly cuts 1+ hour from my commute per day if I were to walk/take the bus to the train station.

      3. Liane*

        I think “Husband drives her to & from work” is the LEAST worrisome part of this.
        Sometimes couples mutually decide to “downsize” to one vehicle. Sometimes there might be no choice. A repair (or just getting the funds for something major) may take a long time, and a rental is out of the question.
        Heck even though we have 2 working vehicles, I might suggest my husband drive me to work every day simply because the second vehicle is a 20-ish year old V8 truck, so we’d come out way ahead on gas.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          It isn’t so much what he’s doing but what appears to be his intentions. I know tons of spouses who drive together. None of them, to my knowledge, have been told that it’s because “queens don’t drive” and it’s not coupled with other concerning behaviors.

        2. namelesscommentater*

          The part that I found worrisome is that the driving is a recent change. Lots of people downsize but it’s usually a mutual decision. She’s no longer driving because her husband doesn’t think she should. And that’s a recent development that restricts her movements (unless he is now her chauffeur, which does not seem to be the case). It’s the change that’s much more worrisome than choosing to go without a second car.

      4. heatherskib*

        My husband and I shared a vehicle for the first 7 years of our marriage. We both worked more than 40 hour weeks, but would just wait for the other person to get off work after dropping a text that we were on the way or there.
        We only got a car when he started working a sales job that was literally 11 hour days.

    5. The OP*

      OP here. I definitely addressed the asking to be let go early from his early arrivals, I included that as an example of how it’s impacting her work. She completes her day as normal now, but you can tell she’s anxious (body language not action). I can’t make her not feel anxious. =/

    6. Genevieve Shockley*

      >>accepted a promotion that involves travel. It would be a maximum of one overnight monthly, but more typically one overnight per quarter. She accepted the position knowing that this level of travel would be required.

      However, she told me last week that she will no longer travel because her husband told her no and her religion tells her to obey her husband. I said the role requires travel and she accepted the role just a few months ago knowing that, so I’m not sure if I accommodate her dislike of travel and keep her in the same role. She says it has to be accommodated because it’s her sincerely-held religion.>>

      Why would this not fall under insubordination or failure to perform the given aspects of the job?

      1. Katherine*

        I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but the fact that religion was cited as the reason for no longer doing those tasks takes this out of insubordination territory and plonks it right into potential-lawsuit-based-on-religious-discrimination territory, which is must more terrifying for the OP and the organisation.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Yes. The driving her to work situation and her obvious anxiety when he always arrives early…creepy AF.

    2. Bonky*

      Couldn’t agree more. What is there that a manager or a business owner can do if they suspect that domestic violence and/or abuse is occurring? This whole situation reads like something out of a very nasty novel.

      At my work, we lost a remote employee whose husband was balking – badly – at the need for her to be at our HQ city for one two-night stay a month, as contracted; she left saying he wouldn’t allow her to do that. I’m still torn about the situation. What’s the manager’s responsibility to the employee, and what is their responsibility to the company when something like this comes up?

      1. Temperance*

        Why are you torn about it? The employee chose to leave her job rather than comply with a reasonable requirement. I’d worry about a control issue wrt her husband, but the employee presumably made the choice of her own free will.

        1. Bonky*

          Some other stuff she’d said: the husband was not, as far as I could make out, violent, but the control issues went way beyond not allowing her to travel and she was utterly miserable. It’s not clear to me that women in this situation necessarily *have* a lot of free will.

          I’m fully aware that none of this stuff is the employer’s problem, but on a human level, I wish I’d been able to help.

        2. O'Thee*

          It’s not quite her own free will if she’s being coerced into doing so by an abusive relationship.

          1. Tammy*

            Yes, so much this. In my former life, when I refused to quit a job that my ex was opposed to, said ex’s response was to interfere with my ability to do the job (think, multiple contrived “emergencies” to make me leave work early and come home, among other things) to such an extent that I was let go. My boss was super regretful that she needed to fire me, but under the circumstances I didn’t blame her.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it’s dangerous to frame caving in to someone’s control issues or emotional abuse as “free will.” In Bonky’s story it’s difficult to know if the husband was so controlling that he was being abusive or whether this was his one unreasonable demand. People in abusive situations of course still have agency, but the idea of consent gets squicky when you’re making decisions that hurt you, but possibly not as severely as the harm you’d face from failing to comply.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Agreed 1000% on this. I hope that OP will look at the big picture and not just how she and her company are being inconvenienced – this whole situation screams abuse. She lost her car not because she and her husband decided to downsize to one vehicle but because he doesn’t want her to drive. This affects her ability to do her work. This is classic controlling behavior – make it harder to perform her job and maybe she’ll lose the job and therefore a lot of independence. Same with the travel situation. The fact that “she must obey her husband” has only come up now and didn’t come up when she accepted the promotion also is an abuse red flag – abusers are great at changing the rules when it suits them. And as for her antsy-ness when he arrives to pick her up…well, I’m assuming it has a lot to do with how he treats her when she makes him wait.

          A lot of assumptions here, I realize, but I think erring on the side of assuming she’s in this situation would be safer and better for her than assuming she’s not.

          1. The OP*

            OP here… I hope I didn’t come off as callous in the post. I definitely see the DV flags. But I also know she’s extremely conservative in following her faith and I don’t know if she would take any concern as suggesting that I think her religion is abusive. Which would be a whole other ball of wax.

            1. Cafe au Lait*

              Her religion isn’t being abusive, but she is experiencing spiritual abuse. If you call the DV hotline, ask if they have any information on working within the framework of spiritual abuse. If they don’t have any resources, I’d contact Grace: Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environement, They will probably have resources or know of resources to assist you.

                1. LJL*

                  Also, I didn’t see any indication that the OP or the employee are Christian. I didn’t see any that they’re not, either, but we should not assume.

            2. LadyRamblesaLot*

              I am a woman with similar religious beliefs, however, this situation is ticking abuse flags for me as well. There are times when my husband will tell me (read: “would you please…” while knowing I will) to do something, but when he does I can trust that he is trying to act in my best interest because I trust him. The part no one mentions about the wife obeying, is that the husband has his role too and is supposed to sacrifice himself to love and serve his family , to put loving his wife in front of serving his desires. And my husband does this in spades. We discuss together everything that happens involving our family and most often we agree. This basically means in a “tie” he gets the deciding vote. And many times when we discuss something we disagree on, I “win” and he changes what he was planning to do. I would in no way say I am in an abusive relationship (having been in one when I was much younger, I know the difference).

              But abusive men see the whole situation differently, not that wives are partners and must weigh in on every important decision regarding the family, but that “she has to do what I say no matter what.” And the situation you are describing sounds like the abusive variety. He saw a loss in control in having his wife out of his reach when traveling, so that had to stop. If she could drive he wouldn’t know where she was, so that had to stop. When a man is grasping at control like this, he’s almost certainly using religion to prop up his abusive behavior. Seems to me like he’s “tightening the net” to get more control over her.

              Now I will say that I am describing a conservative Christian perspective. If she is of some other religion, they will of course have different standards making some of what I said not apply. But you can express concern for the situation without saying the religion itself is abusive. She may know inside it is abusive but have others telling her things are fine. Bad churches can help to keep women trapped in abusive situations. Good churches fix or help women leave these situations.

              My husband and I work together to make the best family (and be the best employees) we can according to Biblical principles. And that is what her husband should be doing with her (assuming again we are talking about Christians) and he pretty clearly isn’t, possibly even sabotaging her work. If you can convey to her that you at least understand the ideal (even though you do not agree), you can tell her your concerns without denigrating her religion as a whole.

              1. BF50*

                Thank you for your perspective.

                I was just coming here to say that I know a woman with similar religious beliefs to yours and there are no flags for abuse that I’ve seen. Her relationship dynamics really don’t come into play in her day to day life . Honestly, I would not know them except that she told me them in context of a deeper conversation about relationship dynamics.

                I cannot imagine her saying “I can’t do that because my husband said no, and my religion dictates I obey him”. Family decisions are still family decisions, it’s just that her husband is the primary decision maker and gets the final say, but she still takes ownership of those family decisions.

            3. dg*

              Hey OP, I know this suggestion might get expensive in the short term, but as far as the offsite meetings go, I’d start with the “reasonable accommodation” of allowing her to expense a taxi or uber. I had a job with offsite meetings, and since having a car was not part of the job description, I was allowed to expense these – along with taxis home on crunch nights when the free shuttle to the transit station had stopped running.

              If you spend an extra 20 bucks a week so she can go to these meetings, will her husband complain or will it be okay? I think that answer will speak volumes about whether this is unorthodox or abuse.

            4. Grace*

              Hi The OP,

              As a woman who was excommunicated from a church that held these beliefs for my refusal to adhere to them and other such nonsense, I’m sorry you are being put through this grief. Many religious groups these days have crossed the lines into cults, and more and more are making women ‘obey and submit’ to their husbands in ‘everything.’ Sigh.

    3. Vladimir*

      I agree this really sounds like abusive relationship. But even if it isnt and she is doing this willingly without coertion (and I have to say I dont understand why would anyone give such power overthemselves willingly to another person) the husband is clearly a jerk. He clearly misuses the power for his own benefits and to her damage, that sadly doesnt sedm to je unusual when husbands are given such power over their wifes.

  3. Old Admin*

    I had a look at the linked compliance manual.
    Wow. That is quite involved.
    Without going into any kind of religious/sexism/abuse discussion, I agree that this sounds quite fishy and warrants both a lawyer and the OP carefully looking into the validity of the report’s reasoning, *and* what is going on at home.

    However, I agree with the second lawyer quoted in AAM’s answer: First and foremost, if the work is not done, then some sort of reduction in pay or status may well be justified. This is not an accomodation for, say, religious dietary restrictions or a physical handicap.
    IMHO, accomodations are supposed to help people *do their work*, not get out of doing it.
    Thus, “no windfall based on a religious accomodation” sounds reasonable.

    Just my 2 cents.

    1. Jan Levinson*

      “IMHO, accomodations are supposed to help people *do their work*, not get out of doing it.”

      Yes. This.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I like this a lot, but I’m not sure if it’s a bright-line rule. An example I’ve seen: At big law firms, the expectation is that you work weekends when needed and have your phone with you pretty much all the time. However, I have friends who are quite religious, and they’ve been able to take off the Sabbath. Details vary, but for some of them that means not looking at their phones or computers for 24 hours. That’s a long break for that job, and there’s no equivalent time off or compensation for people who are not religious. So in that case, the religious accommodation really might get people out of doing work, but it’s pretty widely accepted. (And you couldn’t pay people less or otherwise penalize them because of that kind of religious observance, or at least I don’t think you could.)

        Anyway, I’m not disagreeing with the “no windfall” rule, but I think the lines around it are pretty fuzzy.

        1. caryatis*

          Agreed. Another example is that most companies in the U.S. give everyone Christmas Day off, but Jewish employees get Christmas PLUS Jewish holidays off. So they are getting more leave because of their religion, but everyone seems to accept that as legal.

          1. Michele*

            Does that really happen? In my experience, the Jewish employees either have to swap a day (such as Yom Kippur for Good Friday) with someone or take a vacation day. The exception being the company that husband used to work for. The family that owned it was Jewish but they were in a predominantly Christian city, so they gave everyone the high holidays for both religions off.

            1. Esther G.*

              I’m Jewish. At every job I have ever had I have been allowed to have my own holidays off with pay in addition to all the Christian holidays on the calendar such as Easter and Christmas (also with pay). This was same for all other non-Christians I worked with. I realize I might be luckier than most but I have always taken it for granted. It’s the same for my brothers and other friends that I know.

            2. the other Emily*

              It happens where I work. Any religious holidays that aren’t related to Christianity are allowed to be taken without using PTO or swapping days. Those who follow religions besides Christianity are allowed both their holidays as well as Christian ones. I’m not religious so it doesn’t affect me but it is the norm where I work.

              1. Elizabeth H.*

                That’s so interesting! I genuinely never would have imagined this would be the case. I have no idea if the place I work does this too; we have a significant Jewish population and our OEO offers reasonable accommodations but I’m not sure how this plays out in practice. I just looked up the policy which suggests we will “accommodate an employee’s requests for absences to the extent possible by allowing flexible arrival and departure times, floating or optional holidays” so I wonder if that is done here too. The only two religious holidays we have off are the 24th and the 25th.

                1. nonegiven*

                  Some jobs, the non Christians take the Christmas shifts so the Christians can be with their families.

              2. Ann O.*

                I am very jealous! Every where I’ve worked has required using time off for any reason, including religious holidays. This is also the case for my family.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It varies. I’ve worked at places that give you both sets of days, places that let you swap days, and places that. Require PTO. But I will say that most employers (who don’t have a sizeable number of Jewish employees or who are not in cities with a significant Jewish population) do not give extra paid holidays to religious minorities—if they let you take leave, it comes out of your PTO/vacation/comp time or is unpaid. In general, people don’t tend to benefit from being minorities, and it’s kind of frustrating when others propagate misinformation that suggests otherwise.

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                An Orthodox friends of mine who is an attorney says he always expects to use PTO for the Jewish holidays, and says so going into a job. When he’s negotiating the terms of an offer, what he explains is, “I’m an observant Jew,” (which by this point is not a surprise to anybody, since he wears a kippah everywhere) “so I’m going to need to take off certain days for holiday observance, and leave early enough on Fridays to get home and meet my Shabbat obligations. I’ll be happy to submit my time off requests for those days at the beginning of the year, so you have plenty of notice for which days I need to take, and I usually come in Sunday if the workload requires it, rather than staying later Friday afternoon.”

                That presents it to them in a form which implies that he *intends* to use PTO for Jewish holidays. He explains, “I work in Washington DC, where there are enough Jews that I could almost certainly get the holidays off just by asking for them. But the Torah requires ME to shoulder the responsibilities related to these holidays; it doesn’t command anyone else to do it for me. I have no right to ask them to take on part of that burden when it’s possible for me to do myself; I only have the right to expect that they will make it *possible* for me to take the responsibility on myself. After that, it’s on me.”

                1. Bryce*

                  A-MEN to the second paragraph. I run into people (including fellow Jews) who see it otherwise and it’s such a foreign idea to me. This is central to the Judaism I was raised with.

                2. Bryce*

                  Reading further responses I think I need to clarify. The part I latch onto is “my religion is my responsibility.” Accommodation can be another matter, I just run into a lot of folks who see it as “they should have already known and done that for me” or who expect others to abide by their religious rules.

              2. Bibliovore*

                I have never had the Jewish holidays off that wasn’t charged against my vacation time. I have had professional development training scheduled on Rosh Hashanah and told, your holiday starts at sunset so you can be here during the day. (still bitter) I was also told at a different job, that I couldn’t have the day off because as last hired, I couldn’t manipulate the schedule.

            4. Sans*

              I’ve been working full time for over 30 years – at pretty reasonable companies – and never could I have taken off a Jewish holiday unless I wanted to take PTO. I always envied my daughter because the schools always include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as standard holidays.

          2. NCKat*

            I’m Jewish and I have to take PTO to go to High Holiday services. I don’t get a “free pass” because of my religion. My company closes the headquarters from Christmas Day through New Year’s Day and we all have to hold back vacation days for that.

            Just saying it’s not universal.

              1. Batshua*

                But we don’t. If I was being very machmir (eh, stringent?) I would have no PTO for vacation because it would ALL go to holidays. (2 days Rosh Hashana, 1 day Yom Kippur, 4 days for Sukkot/Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah, 4 days for Passover, 2 days for Shavuot). Of course, some of those days fall on the weekend, but it’s always a crapshoot. As it is, a lot of it gets eaten by my annual Passover trip to see my folks.

                Someday I hope to have enough vacation to actually go to services when I want to.

              2. Working Hypothesis*

                Not necessarily. Some observant Jews don’t even want the holidays to be “free days,” because it takes away the opportunity for them to fulfill the mitzvah of refraining from work that day. If the work is simply taken off their plate from the outside, rather than them having to give up something for the privilege, they feel it’s less of their own doing, which it needs to be under Torah. So it’s really interpretation-dependent and complex, even from the employee’s end, let alone the employer’s.

            1. Sabine the Very Mean*

              Me too. And we don’t work on Christmas because the office is closed, generally. It’s not easy to go on being a normal adult on days when the cities shut down. That’s why we have Chinese food on Christmas.

            2. caryatis*

              I think there should be no special religious time off. Everyone gets equal leave, and you can use it for whatever days are meaningful to you.

              1. gmg22*

                This is what my small (~50 employees in the US and abroad) nonprofit does, and it works great. They base it on the list of state holidays* in the state where we are headquartered, so everyone gets 13 days (in addition to our weeks of regular vacation) to correspond to that list, but to be taken whenever you want. We have colleagues who celebrate Christmas, colleagues who celebrate Jewish holidays, colleagues who celebrate the Chinese New Year, etc — it’s just the fairest way to handle it.

                1. Kj*

                  We get some regular holidays that are federally recognized since our client’s wouldn’t come in on those days anyways and we get “floating holidays” that we can take whenever and where ever we want. It is a good system- some folks use them for religious stuff, other for more vacation and no one cares which it is and what you do with your time.

                2. Jamey*

                  My old company used floating holidays like this but only gave us 5 for the year… so it just ended up pressuring people into working holidays.

                3. Working Hypothesis*

                  It’s certainly the fairest easy to handle it, but not always possible from the employer’s perspective. If they’ve got 38 employees who celebrate holiday group A, and one employee each who celebrate groups B and C, they might well be unable to open on holiday group A. There just aren’t enough people to keep things running, or make meaningful work possible, with only 2 out of a usual 40 employees in the office.

                  So they have to close on those days, meaning the two exceptions get those days off even if they don’t want them. And then it’s unfair however you do it… if they also get their own holidays off, they’re getting an extra set of vacation days the majority doesn’t get; and if they have to use PTO for their own holidays, they’re effectively being told when they’re going to take their non-religious vacation days (on the days when the place closes), when everyone else gets to choose for themselves.

                  It’s not really something which has a realistic solution that’s fair to all parties. When a company CAN let their staff work on the days when most of their colleagues are out — either because opening the office is feasible even with a much-reduced staff, or by letting them work from home — that’s clearly the best option… but it really depends on the nature of the business, the type of work, and just how many of their staff are able to work that day, to determine whether or not it can be done.

            3. JanetM*

              Did I read that correctly? Your company *shuts down* for a week and makes you use your PTO for that time?

                1. MWKate*

                  From the comments it seems this isn’t uncommon – but it seems crazy to me. You aren’t choosing to be off, they are not allowing you to work.

                1. FiveWheels*

                  Me too. In a factory job, we had X days off paid leave, some of which had to be taken over a week long shutdown

                  In every office job I’ve had, there have been mandatory closure days around eg Christmas, as depending on how the days fell it was pointless to work for one day in between Christmas and New Year.

                  Holiday entitlement is generally:

                  B + F + M = T
                  B is bank holidays, F is fixed closure days, M is movable days to be taken whenever, and T is the total holiday allowance.

              1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                Mine does. I’m told they used to do it for two weeks a year to completely control when vacation was taken for the majority of the employees.

              2. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

                A company where I previously worked shut down between Christmas and New Year’s Day, but we didn’t have to use PTO for those days. Just free vacation days for everyone. : )

              3. NCKat*

                Yes it’s been four days’ PTO each employee has to hold back for the break. A lot of companies shut down for the “down time.”

              4. Apollo Warbucks*

                I’m in the U.K. And it’s in my contract at my current and former job that my employee has the right to make me use up to three days holiday at their discretion, in practice that hasn’t been done in years but it is still possible, but as my basic PTO is 25 days (+ public holidays) I wouldn’t feel to hard done by burning three days.

              5. Zombii*

                That or you can take the time unpaid. This is common, and also commonly regarded to be kind of shitty (especially if the company doesn’t think about that week when deciding how much PTO they give per year).

          3. Susie Cruisie*

            Seriously? Anyway, the law mandates people be allowed to take time off for religious holidays, not that they are paid for them so in your example, non-exempt employees who take off for Jewish days of recognition would not necessarily be paid for those days. They are not “getting more leave because of their religion.” Additionally, in geographical areas and/or industries where the population is predominantly Jewish, those holidays are also recognized by employers as ‘paid holidays’ for all employees. If you worked for one of these companies, would you be willing to come in to work on those days if your Jewish counterpart came in on Christmas day?

            1. caryatis*

              It’s not universal, as several people have pointed out, but in my company people do get special extra leave for any religious holidays they celebrate that are not Christmas Day. So yes, they are “getting more leave because of their religion.” I think everyone should have equal leave.

              If I worked for a company where everyone got Jewish holidays off, I would probably want those days off too, if I’m understanding your question right.

          4. LBK*

            I think that’s far from being universal or even common. Most Jewish people I know have to take PTO for their holidays.

            1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

              I’ve always had to use PTO or a floating holiday for the High Holidays.

          5. Czhorat*

            THis is because Christian holidays get preferential treatment by the government. It’s not the non-Christian employee’s fault they get them off.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Thank you. This is like when people complain when children with learning disabilities receive “extra time.” They’re not receiving extra time—they’re receiving an accommodation that allows them the same experience as a child without those disabilities.

              1. Anancy*

                Princess: I really really love how you said this: “They’re not receiving extra time—they’re receiving an accommodation that allows them the same experience as a child without those disabilities.” It is such brilliant perspective, thank you.

              2. JM60*

                As someone who needed a little extra help as a young child due to a mild learning disability, I dislike this analogy. The extra help for a learning disabled child is mostly help that the other children don’t benefit from our want. “The same experience” in the case of time off would be everyone being offered the time off.

                By giving only employees of a certain religion time off, you’re discriminating against others for not being part of that religion. As someone with no religious beliefs, I don’t have any religious holidays, so I’d be discriminated against on the basis of religious status (none) if my employer only let people of a certain religion take certain days off (without it counting against their PTO).

                1. Kj*

                  That is why I like the floating holiday approach discussed above. My Jewish co-workers take off Jewish high holy days, Christians can take off Xmas, Easter and Good Friday and I as an atheist can take a day off to work in my garden or sleep. Fair to everyone.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I respectfully disagree with your second paragraph, but I agree that the analogy may be inapt. But the “same experience” for religious minorities is not about days off, even if that’s how we’re talking about it.

                3. The Sassy Vulcan*

                  Pagan here. It’s really not any kind of special reward to belong to a religion that isn’t the majority. My religion is pretty invisible and is often the butt of jokes more often than not. The pagan new year is October 31st—can you imagine the reaction of an employer if I told them I’m a witch who needs Halloween off? I’d be laughed out of their office.

                  Considering all the BS and discrimination and harassment that members of non-Christian religions face, I think you can let go this idea that Jewish people etc are getting one over on you by getting their own holidays off.

            2. Anon for this*

              I somewhat have a different take on this. Yes, most businesses close on Christmas and that is a Christian holiday. Easter is always on a Sunday so most corporate folks have Sundays off as well, though many stores public service roles (police, hospitals, fire, etc.) still work those days. But, as a RC, I have never gotten my Holy Days of Obligation, Ash Wednesday and generally Good Friday off without taking PTO, even working for other RCs.

              At some firms, they gave everyone a set number of religious days that could be taken in addition to PTO, but how far those days went depended on your religion.

              1. Sylvia*


                My last job gave us each a day for religious or cultural observances. Employees could use them for whatever they wanted; there was no requirement to explain why they were using one or what for.

                My own beliefs don’t require any days off. A couple of Christian holidays off work, plus another whenever I wanted it? Cool.

                For my coworkers whose holidays were more than “a couple of Christian holidays, plus one?” Not that great.

            3. caryatis*

              Yeah, I’m not blaming the non-Christian employees. It’s more of a systemic problem. In my ideal world, the employer wouldn’t have any say in deciding what counts as a religious holiday, and the person who wants to take Christmas off would be on the same footing as the person who wants Rosh Hashanah or her birthday off.

            4. Working Hypothesis*

              No, it’s not. But it’s also not the typical secular employee’s fault that they don’t have a large group of days scattered throughout the year when their community tells them to stop working and do something celebratory, either. Christianity is given preferential treatment, but so is religion as a whole. I don’t see why a “sincerely held belief” should give someone a day off when the belief is that a deity requires them to have a festival, but not when it’s just the equally sincere belief that X event is a time that should be celebrated. I may have a completely sincere belief that the turn of the seasons is rightfully celebrated, but because I don’t think a god said so, I just think it’s true, I don’t get the day off to do that. If I believed exactly the same thing except as part of a pagan religious practice, they’d be required to let me have the day off.

            5. JM60*

              Are there any Christian holidays that get preferential treatment by the government that isn’t also celebrated as a secular holiday? If it weren’t for the fact that Christmas is celebrated as a secular holiday (in addition to being celebrated as a religious holiday) I would think that you would have a point here. However, the way many people celebrate that holiday (including myself) that holiday had about a much to do with Christianity as Thursday had to do with the god Thor.

              Personally, I think a reasonable approach for a business to take is to give everyone the same holidays, with the selected holidays being those that are either secular, of often celebrated as secular in spite of having religious origins. If anyone wants/needs other specific days off, that’s partly what PTO is for.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I don’t want to derail on this, but I do want to note that many non-Christians don’t consider Christmas to be secular at all, and there are large numbers of non-Christians who are offended and feel erased by treating symbols of Christmas as universal and secular things.

                1. JM60*

                  Some Christmas imagery were originally considered anti-Christian Pagan symbols (the Bible had a few passages explicitly condemning what’s now caked Christmas trees). Regardless, I think employers should be conservative when it comes symbols that could be seens as religious in the workplace. However, given how many people celebrate on that day, it’s reasonable for an employer to offer everyone that day off.

                  For what is worth, I’m a non-Christian who celebrates Christmas as a secular holiday. I realize that not every non-Christian feels the save way I do though.

                2. Zombii*

                  As long as everyone’s equally all offended by everyone else’s religious (or non-religious) beliefs that have no real impact on other people’s lives other than something to be offended by, I’m good with it. O_o

                3. Sylvia*

                  Zombii, I wish that people’s beliefs had “no real impact” on one another, but unfortunately, some people’s right to swing their fist doesn’t end where my nose begins.

                  Having one belief system presented as so much the norm it might as well be universal, so overwhelmingly dominant that its observances might as well be adhered to by people of other beliefs doesn’t help the issue.

                4. Hrovitnir*

                  I just want to +1 this whenever you post it, though I feel bad contributing to the +1 string. But as an atheist I both support people of all religions getting their major holidays off and resent enforced Christian holidays. Being told “they’re secular!” is just rubbing it in. No. It’s. Not.

                  (Yeah, I have “secular” xmas with my family and I do presents because we have the day off and I like food and presents. There is also a not-insignificant group of people who spend the entire season trying to make sure you remember it’s a Christian holiday. I’d rather attempt a summer solstice (southern hemisphere), but good luck coordinating people.)

                5. SpaceySteph*

                  A million yesses to this. Christmas is not secular and is actually a celebration of something that runs counter to my beliefs. I am not like offended on a regular basis about it, but I do think that considering christmas secular is a privileged position that comes from being raised in the mainstream religious tradition. Even if lapsed or if never particularly religious, there is a cultural comfort/fluency involved that those of us from minority religions are not party to.

                  There IS a perk involved in being a minority religion, which is that there’s no competition at my job when I want a random Tuesday off for Rosh Hashana, but a few small perks does not outweigh the many disadvantages of being in the minority.

                6. JM60*

                  @Syylvia “Having one belief system presented as so much the norm it might as well be universal, so overwhelmingly dominant that its observances might as well be adhered to by people of other beliefs doesn’t help the issue.”

                  Most observances that are associated with Christmas in modern America require no particular belief system, and some of them are arguably anti-Christian (see the Christmas tree example I gave). The main practices that I associate with Christmas, setting up a tree, decorating a home with lights, exchanging gifts, hanging out with family, have a lot more to do with Paganism than Christianity.

                  There of course still are many people who treat it like a holy day for their religion. But I think it’s far enough along the line of secularization that giving everyone a day off and having some conservative decorations in the workplace is reasonable. I think that setting up a holiday tree in the workplace is on the same level (in terms of imposing one religion on people) as setting up Halloween decorations at the end of October.

                  Of course, anyone who sees Christmas as a Christian holiday should have the freedom to do whatever they want on Dec 25.

                  If someone who disagrees responds, I’m genuinely curious whether you feel the same way about Halloween as you do about Christmas. After all, All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is also a holiday with very clear religious (Christian/Pagan) origins, that I think is a little bit further down the line of secularization than Christmas.

              2. Catcat12*

                Yeah, I would definitely second that Christmas *is not* a secular holiday – it is the celebration of the birth of Christ, it is in a very specific religious framework with specific rites – as a non-Christian, I am extremely uncomfortable with the white-washing of Christmas.

                Also, I don’t want Christmas off. Truly, I do not care, and I would rather not have Christmas off and be able to have my own holidays off without dipping into my PTO than have holidays in which I barely have any time to spend with family. Religious holidays for minority religions in the US become hard to celebrate when you work, and its actually really upsetting to not be able to share sacred days with family because the government prioritizes Christianity over all other faiths.

            6. FiveWheels*

              This may be a UK – USA difference, but public holidays which fall on Christian holidays aren’t really for celebrating religion.

              Good Friday is a public holiday but we don’t get the day off to celebrate Easter – we get the day off for the same reason as May Day and the August Bank Holiday Monday, namely banks aren’t open for business. The traditional shut down days match with some Christian holidays but they have very little to do with observing faith. (I’m an atheist, BTW)

              1. StevieIsWondering*

                That only Christian holidays make it onto the national calendar, whether you consider the holiday “secular” or not, means that Christianity gets preferential treatment in the UK, too.

                1. UK Nerd*

                  They’re not only Christian holidays. May Day is a traditional Pagan holiday, and the August bank holiday is to allow bank employees to play cricket.

              2. HannahS*

                …but why do you think the banks close? Is it a massive coincidence that they’re closed on Good Friday and Christmas?

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                If you provide public holidays only on days that are significant to one religious group, then there’s a distinction in which faith receives priority and accommodation from the state. I’m not sure what you mean by “celebrating religion” or “observing faith”—the fact that some non-Christians do not celebrate Christianity on those days doesn’t make the holidays any less religious in nature.

          6. LQ*

            My experience has been that those employees need to “pay” for that with PTO in whatever form they have that. Which seems like more of a detriment than a benefit. They aren’t getting more leave, they are required to not work a day they don’t celebrate when they might prefer to have it some other day.

          7. FiveWheels*

            Eeek! In the UK I can’t imagine this ever happening, as it’s basically giving better employment conditions to someone based on their religion. And as an atheist I would be especially displeased on a personal level.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              **deep sigh**

              It is not giving someone “better employment conditions” on the basis of their religion. This line of argumentation, when applied in other contexts (e.g., gender, race), would be considered pretty offensive and factually inaccurate. And the same is true when it’s being leveraged against religious minorities, particularly in countries like the U.S. Accommodation is about integration, equal opportunity, and inclusivity.

          8. StevieIsWondering*

            “Jewish employees get Christmas PLUS Jewish holidays off. So they are getting more leave because of their religion, but everyone seems to accept that as legal.”

            The resentment expressed in the quoted comment stems from an unfounded claim that this practice is universal; it is not. In every job I have had to use PTO for holidays, take the holidays unpaid, or not take the holidays. Workplaces that do allow employees to take religious holidays without sacrificing PTO should be applauded, as should places that provide paid parental leave and paid family leave.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Workplaces that do allow employees to take religious holidays without sacrificing PTO should be applauded, as should places that provide paid parental leave and paid family leave.

              Thank you!

        2. Decimus*

          Law firms usually (although not always) pay either hourly or by billable hours, so someone working one day less will usually be making 1/7th the salary, which may be enough of an accommodation.

          1. Jess*

            That’s what I was thinking too: law firms have billable requirements, so if someone turns their phone off on their sabbath, they’re making that time up elsewhere.

          2. Triangle Pose*

            No…at most law firms, and at all BigLaw firms, associates are paid a base salary and then their bonuses are based on some formula heavily skewed toward billable hours. So in the situation above the lawyer would NOT be making 1/7th of the salary.

          3. Turanga Leela*

            I think (but am not positive) that everyone I know in this situation was salaried. They billed by the hour but didn’t get paid by the hour. Billable hours influenced promotions and bonuses, though, so people with religious accommodations would have to make up those hours somewhere if they wanted to stay on the partner track and keep their bonuses. So for many people, there’s no reduction in salary, and they wind up billing a similar number of hours, but religious accommodations mean that they take time off (like totally off, without checking their work messages) that non-religious people don’t get.

            To be clear, I’m not really objecting to this. I think everyone should get to take that kind of time off, but that’s often not available in these jobs, and people know that going in.

            1. Decimus*

              Ah it it was unclear whether attorneys or staff were referred to. Attorneys, yes, are usually salaried (but as you said promotions were billable hours based). Staff, such as paralegals, usually are hourly and eligible for overtime.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Although attorneys are salaried, billable hours can have an impact on compensation (end of year bonus) and on opportunities for advancement (annual performance reviews). So although there may not be a deduction in someone’s base pay, religious observance can impact total compensation and the ability to meet billable hour targets—which in turn impacts whether you’re on a partnership track. So there are real, tangible risks for attorneys who fail to meet their targets.

              I also have a feeling that attorneys who observe the Sabbath are also called on to cover their coworkers who have religious practices that occur on non-Sabbath days. At least that’s been my experience as a religious minority—I frequently end up covering Christmas, Easter, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, half a dozen saint’s days, and Sunday mornings/early afternoons.

        3. Persephone Mulberry*

          I imagine, though, that they are expected to meet the same billable hour quotas or whatever? Or their net salary is being impacted by billing X fewer hours than their peers, maybe?

          (IANAL and what I know about working in law firms I learned from John Grisham and The Good Wife.)

          1. Triangle Pose*

            The issue is really that another lawyer has to then cover for responding to client needs during the time the religious lawyer it out of pocket, which places an added burden on coworkers and creates ineffeciencies for the client (the coverage lawyer isn’t as familiar and will have to bill additional time to get up to speed).

        4. Agnodike*

          To my mind, it’s less about “getting out of” one specific component of the overall work (working on the Sabbath) and more about the accommodation permitting, in the big picture, that person to do the work at all. If you are required not to work on the Sabbath, you can’t take a job where Sabbath work is part of the expectation – unless you are given a religious exemption. The exemption is what permits the employee to do the majority of what the other employees do, as opposed to none of it. The equity piece there is that if you don’t have religious exemptions, that means that certain kinds of people are forever excluded from certain kinds of work, which seems like something you’d want to avoid wherever possible in an equitable society. (Of course there will be times when you can’t avoid it: Bacon Taster will forever be a job that’s inaccessible to Orthodox Jews. But there are plenty of jobs where there’s plenty of wiggle room that might be inaccessible to whole groups of the population if not for these exemptions.)

          1. Abby*

            But as you point out, this is specific somewhat to industry. I have worked in healthcare all of my career. Since many healthcare facilities are open 24/7 and not closed on any religious holidays, generally we do not have to accomodate specific religious holidays for anyone-Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc. Employees are hired with the understanding that they are expected to be able to work 365 days a year. Obviously, people do get days off but there are no accomodations for specific holidays.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              From a Jewish perspective, that may be doable anyway, because you’re a health care facility.

              One of my Orthodox Jewish friends runs the computers in the pharmacy department at a major hospital. She does arrange her schedule so that she needn’t come in for a regular shift on Friday afternoons or Saturdays (which she can do because she’s​ the head of her team and can set the schedules), but she damn well does carry her work phone on Shabbat… and if it rings, she answers it.

              There is a law in Judaism called “pikkuach nefesh,” literally translated as the preservation of a living soul. It dictates that ANY other law in Torah, with the exception of the prohibitions on murder and idolatry, not only may be broken if there’s the slightest chance that doing so would save a life, but MUST be broken if there’s the slightest chance that doing so would save a life. (This is also why Orthodox Jews who are too ill to fast safely on Yom Kippur are required to eat; their own life is included in that law, and given the same weight as any other.)

              My friend’s colleagues know she’s Orthodox, and that she is not on call on Shabbat for anything that can wait. If her work phone rings on a Saturday, it means something has gone wrong with the pharmacy department computers that nobody else can fix. If the pharmacy department computers are going wonky, that might cause hospitalized patients not to get their medicine on time, or to get the wrong medicine or the wrong dose… any of which could easily be fatal.

              So she answers the phone on the rare occasions when it rings, and if she can’t solve the problem by phone, she drops everything and goes in. I’ve seen her excuse herself without apology out self-consciousness from her own Sabbath table, on a Friday night when there were guests. Everybody there knew what she did for a living, and so they understood that she was not breaking the commandment to keep the Sabbath… she was obeying a different Torah commandment with higher priority.

              1. Gene*

                That’s one of the things I’ve always respected about Judaism, the underlying sheer practicality. “Never do X. Well, unless it’s absolutely necessary to do X, then do it; but only if you really have to.”

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  And then we define and codify the exact boundaries of “really have to,” because we’re Jews and we define and codify *everything*. ;-)

            2. Agnodike*

              I have also worked in healthcare all my career and it’s never been an issue at any facility where I’ve been employed, nor have I ever been told there’s an expectation that I have 24/7/365 availability. Healthcare facilities are staffed around the clock, but not by all staff members at once!

              Were I religiously observant, the accommodation necessary to give me a modified call schedule so I didn’t have to work on the Sabbath would be minimal – and, it may be said, encouraging a diverse group of workers gives much more flexibility when it comes to assigning time off, so that’s an asset overall! Where an essential function of the job contravenes someone’s religious belief, that’s an absolute contraindication to that person doing that job (cf. the Orthodox would-be Bacon Tester), but in most other circumstances, there’s room to figure something out if you’re willing to. Just because it’s not part of the standard “way we do things” doesn’t mean there isn’t a sensible, equitable approach that allows for greater diversity in the workforce. As you point out, you don’t have to do so – but it’s sensible and compassionate to consider whether you could and should.

              If you’re the only game in town (as when I worked in a small rural hospital with limited on-call personnel) that might be a different story, but there we are genuinely shading into “essential function of the job” territory. Still, even in my tiny facility, we managed to be pretty flexible about the call schedule between those of us who were on the roster.

        5. FiveWheels*

          Do those people who are unavailable one day a week bill to the same level and get the same client feedback? I’ve had cases that have needed work done every day, including weekends, especially but not always coming up to trial. That’s unusual but if a client wants or a case needs attention on a particular day, partners colleagues and clients will definitely notice if the attention isn’t given.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            I have always wondered about this. I’ve never had a high-level job in a firm, so I’ve never been in a position to know. I’m just friends with a lot of Biglaw associates.

    2. kb*

      I’m not a lawyer or in any way specialized in this area, but it might be worthwhile to ask now and document if there are additional accommodations to be made. Partly to set expectations correctly on both sides now rather than later, but also to take away some power from the husband. Just because I have the feeling the husband is going to set stricter and and stricter requirements, so if that does happen a lawyer would have a little room to question how firmly-held these religious beliefs are if they keep changing. Again, not a lawyer, this could be completely wrong.

      1. kb*

        I don’t like the way I phrased the bit about questioning how firmly-held the beliefs are. I guess I meant that it could be useful to document the changes in accommodation to show that it’s unreasonable to keep accommodating the whims of the husband, a complete 3rd party. This, of course, is me making the assumption that the husband is going impose increasingly stricter requirements, which may not be the case. I don’t know, this situation reads as controlling husband to me.

    3. Temperance*

      I used to work with a woman who is a Jehovah’s Witness, and she would cite religious accommodation whenever she didn’t want to do a particular task. She was a total jerk, and annoying to work with, and my favorite boss ended up canning her over it, eventually.

      I work now with many people who are observant Jews. They can’t work on the Sabbath, but that’s a pretty limited, and reasonable, restriction. Yes, it stinks to be the one who has to cover, but that’s a bona fide requirement of their faith.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        I’ve had coworkers who were/are Jewish and dont’ work on Friday afternoon/Saturdays. They make up for it by putting in extra hours throughout the week/coming in on Sundays.. If there was ever an issue with their work load, that accomodation had absolutely nothing to do with it.. As far as I know they use PTO. I have to use PTO for my holiday as well (Eid). I’d love it if I could work on Christmas instead of using my PTO for my religious holiday, but then I go on vacation during Xmas/NYE. So. *shrugs*

      2. bloo*

        As a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, Temperance, regarding your former coworker, I can honestly say her religion probably had little to do with it and she’d be weaseling out of her work whether she was a member of another religion or had no religion. I have about six days off a year that I need for observances and only an average of 3 of them would I need to request time off work. I’ve had varying jobs and needed no accommodations on them. Back when I was waiting tables I told a coworker that was demanding I sing Happy Birthday to his guest that I would not. He apologized later (he didn’t need to, I wasn’t offended) and no manager was involved. He didn’t ask again. That’s not really an accommodation.
        While, the headship arrangement is utilized in my own household, my husband would never get in the way of job duties of a job we agreed that I’d accept. That would be ridiculous. My last job was part-time but when I was offered a full-time position that I’d not requested or expressed interest in, they were visibly surprised when I asked to think about it. But becoming full-time would have impacted my family so it wouldn’t have occurred to me to make that decision unilaterally.
        While I’m getting icky red flags about *this* particular husband, I’d tread carefully around the religious accommodation. If I needed it for a sincerely held belief, I’d like to know that I could avail myself of it.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          What it seems to come down to is that any legitimate opportunity that’s available for valid reasons can be exploited by people who don’t care about the valid reason and are just using it as leverage. There are people who find ways to exploit disability accommodations, too. I’m strongly inclined to err on the side of offering more protection rather than less in these situations, because it’s often difficult to tell if you’re dealing with a genuine religious issue or a jerk who is pretending a religious issue, and it’s much less damaging to allow the later than to interfere with the former. But that doesn’t make it any less annoying.

  4. RachelR*

    This problem may eventually solve itself. How long before her husband decides that women shouldn’t work outside the home either?

    1. Temperance*

      He probably likes her contribution to the household while also remaining in control, although that would solve LW’s problem.

      1. AMG*

        This is why I think that if the OP / employer decide she does not get the promotion / must travel / must finish her work day / attend meetings, it will quickly come to a head with the husband. He will (I predict) see this as the employer challenging his control and will remove the employer from the equation by forcing her to get another job or stop working.

        I am playing out this imaginary scenario where I switch bodies with the employee, immediately get her the hell away from him, give him the verbal b#^ch slapping that only a King of his caliber richly deserves, help her to re-establish herself personally and professionally, then switch back when she has the fortitude to maintain.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      That’s what I’m afraid of. The husband can tell the wife to do anything and her religion would dictate she must follow his orders. Tomorrow she may no longer be allowed to be in a room with a male co-worker. The next week, she isn’t allowed to use a computer. The next month, she isn’t allowed to work outside of the home.

    3. Katy*

      As long as it takes for it to become financially unfeasible for her to work outside the home. Which, likely never. So she gets to be a Queen who has the parameters of her working life dictated to her.

      1. RVA Cat*

        The particularly creepy thing about calling her a Queen, btw, is that there’s really no way to be an ex-queen. Queens who are overthrown or fall out of favor tend to get beheaded….

          1. Noobtastic*

            Or they can abdicate. Like whatsisname who abdicated to marry the Wallis Simpson. Why can I remember her name, and not his?

            In this scenario, the abdication would take the form of a divorce proceeding.

    4. The OP*

      OP here. The kicker here is that the wife is the breadwinner… the husband doesn’t make enough to pay their bills alone, as she has said a few times. So I don’t think that resolution is very likely.

      1. Temperance*

        I’m totally not surprised to hear that. Small, unsuccessful men like that will often try and take control in other ways. This was also really common in the faith that I grew up in. Sure, your wife is a nurse who makes a good wage, but you, the Man, get to take her check and boss her around.

      2. Engineer Woman*

        Hence why they accepted the promotion for the increased pay and then played the religion card. Maybe not, but I guess I’m cynical.

        Besides the travel (both the monthly / quarterly overnight and the weekly meetings), is she completing other functions of her new job? Are there a lot of new functions / tasks and thereby this travel is a small portion of her new job or is it quite significant?

        I would reduce her pay so as to allocate the travel part of the position to give someone else on the team a “promotion” / tacking on additional duties. Reasonable accommodation shouldn’t mean the employer now needs to hire someone else (or increase others’ pay) to take on some tasks that the job entails. I think compensating her for the new role she has sans travel is fair and reasonable.

      3. XianJaneway*

        OP, I’d like to invite you to learn everything you can about “complementarian” Theology. The site “A Cry For Justice” talks about domestic violence & control in the church. “The Wartburg Watch” and “Spiritual Sounding Board” are blogs for people leaving that Theology. My twitter acct, @XianJaneway, is an anonymous parody acct documenting my own experiences in the movement. The more you learn, the more you can help her if she asks.

    5. Noobtastic*

      A year or two ago, I saw a video a man posted online of him going to his wife’s office, along with his children and brothers, to “rescue” her from her job. He showed up without warning, and said, “You don’t have to work here, any more. Wives shouldn’t work.” and took her away.

      He brought along his little daughter, promising her that she would NEVER have to work, because he would make sure she married a man who would support her, and not force her to work outside the home.

      He talked about “queens” and “princesses,” as well, but the wife and daughter were not consulted as to their wishes in the matter, and the employer and co-workers were both shocked and left in a fix, because she left so abruptly, and without any coverage arranged.

      But he didn’t care about that. He was “being a hero, rescuing his woman” from the “slavery” (yes, as I recall, he used the word) of office work. And he said over and over how much he regretted that she had been working all these years, and that only now was he able to “rescue” her. He was so proud of the “rescue” and his brothers were, too.

      The look on her face, though, spoke volumes. Her smile, when he took her away, and said how happy she must be to be “rescued” was so obviously pasted on for his benefit.

      1. Hrovitnir*

        8( 8( That is so distressing. I’m not sure if it’s worse he has a daughter or better than how he would raise a son.

      2. Vladimir*

        That is horrific I hope he no longer has a wife and only sees his daughter supervised. I fond it quite horrible how prepared these people are to destroy their daughters future becuase od their believes. Some time ago I read a blog post Why not send daughter to college – from nutjob blog fixthefamily – absolutly disgusting. I found by mistake and havent read any other post to preserve my heart.

      3. Callie*

        Sounds like the kind of thing people do when they “make it big” in MLMs (those rare few who do). Making a big show of quitting working for “the man”.

    6. Fafaflunkie*


      There has to be some form of compromise between freedom to practise their religious beliefs vs. how a business operates. What OP is dealing with smells like the husband wants complete control of how her wife functions away from him. How long before this becomes intolerable on the business and just lets her go on the grounds that they cannot work without the husband’s guidelines? Here’s where the lawyer comes into play: there has to be some middle ground between religious discrimination and unreasonable accommodation to adhere to it. Same thing happens for those with a disability: yes, you have to do what you can to accommodate it, but only to a certain point.

  5. Susie*

    If my workplace gave my coworker a raise and promotion, and then required me to do a portion of their work or responsibilities on top of my own work, without giving me the same raise or promotion I would start job hunting immediately. And my boss saying ‘it’s not really fair but,’ would do nothing except aggravate the situation further because it would be worse to me if management acknowledged they were treating me unfairly but then kept on doing it. You need to nip this in the bud now OP before you start losing good people and everyone’s morale gets poisoned.

    1. EddieSherbert*

      +1 this is honestly one of the biggest reasons to nip this in the bud. I’d be feeling pretty sour if I was one of the coworkers here.

    2. Natalie*

      It’s worth noting, generally, that if this is turns out to be a genuinely required religious accommodation, the morale of other employees is not considered an acceptable reason to not provide the accommodation. (Not saying that was necessarily your point Susie, just jumping off the employee morale issue.)

      1. Susie*

        The accommodation is not the problem. The company can accommodate her all they want and I have no problem with that. My beef would be being forced to do someone else’s work on top of my own work, while they got a raise and promotion that I didn’t. If my title and pay were adjusted I would have no issue. But I would object to doing the work of a higher up without getting paid and that’s what would cause issues with my morale.

        1. Natalie*

          Yes, I hear you and I don’t disagree – I’d probably be looking for another job, too.

          But for the OP’s benefit I’m mentioning that, legally, she can’t take the feelings of co-workers into account when determining whether or not she can provide this accommodation.

      2. bridget*

        To get nitpicky, the morale of other employees is a legitimate consideration that courts often analyze in determining whether an accommodation constitutes an undue hardship or not. It’s true that courts don’t take generalized or hypothetical concerns about morale as easy answers to these questions, but morale (particularly in cases about accommodating Sabbatarians that cause other employees to work a disproportionate amount of weekend days) is definitely a legal consideration. Whether the requires an accommodation on-balance is much too fact-specific to make a hard-line statement like “morale doesn’t matter” or “morale issues mean an accommodation is an undue hardship.”

        (Link of a law review article summarizing several cases on the topic to follow).

          1. em2mb*

            This is fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

            I’m wondering if some of the case law from TWA v. Hardison might be relevant here. TL;DR he wanted Saturdays off to accommodate his religion, but it was at odds with the union seniority structure that allowed employees to bid for their preferred shifts.

            It’s my understanding of that case that originally, the employee worked in one location and had enough seniority that he could avoid working Saturdays and thus accommodate his religion. But then he put in for a transfer to another location that he knew he would lose that seniority preference. Wouldn’t this be similar? You could accommodate an employee’s religious preference not to travel in one position, but if that employee transferred to a position that required travel, the company wouldn’t necessarily have to accommodate that.

        1. Natalie*

          Ah, thanks for clarifying – so essentially a specific hardship (such as people quitting) can be taken into account even if that was caused by morale issues, but you can’t just assume it will happen?

          1. bridget*

            Right. If morale issues are concrete enough and can be shown to be a big enough deal to the company, they can be the basis for an undue hardship. “People might grumble about this accommodation” probably won’t be anywhere near an accommodation, but “we only have 3 employees in this position and the other 2 had to work 50% more weekend days under the accommodation and so they quit in frustration” gets much closer.

        2. Alton*

          Yeah, I think there’s a difference between morale in the sense of employees being jealous of the employee receiving accommodations (“If Imani gets to wear her hijab, why can’t I wear a hat if I want to?”) and morale in the sense of employees experiencing an actual hardship.

          Legality aside, though, I don’t really see why it matters when it comes to fairly compensating people for the work they do. If someone is performing duties that would normally merit a raise or other compensation, I think the right thing for the company to do is make an effort to compensate that person fairly, regardless of why those duties have fallen to them.

    3. Seal*

      Agreed. That happened to me years ago and to this day still infuriates me. My coworker got promoted instead of me for mostly political reasons, but wasn’t up to the job so many of his responsibilities fell to me. While it was widely acknowledged that the upper administration had dropped the ball on this, I was eventually told to stop complaining about being overwhelmed because the weren’t going to do anything about it. I got out of there as fast as I possibly could. To no one’s surprised, the department fell apart once I left.

      One other point to consider. In my case, although it was a small department that was generally under the radar when things were going well, after this promotion snafu happened EVERYONE in the organization knew something had gone very wrong and not because anyone in our department was talking. Everyone who had to interact with my promoted coworker quickly realized he didn’t know what he was doing and came to me to fix the messes he made. That made things harder for everyone. So I suspect that word of the OP’s situation and her employee’s unfortunate situation has already spread. The longer it goes on, the harder it’s going to be to resolve.

      1. EternalAdmin*

        I’m glad you left. Doing someone else’s job to keep them stable in a position is wholly wrong on the part of an employer. You’re doing the work and deserve to have the title and experience listed on your resume. It angers me when bosses don’t consider the finer points.

        1. Seal*

          Me too! And you are exactly correct that neither my boss nor the administration considered the finer points of promoting this guy. In the end it came back to bite them in the ass. The good thing for me was that being forced to take on all of this additional responsibility looked GREAT on my resume.

          1. Annonymouse*

            I think your situation is a bit different.

            If OPs employee had never had any problems before and/or had never needed a religious accomodation before they had no reason to expect this situation would play out.

            For your old work it should have been a clearly foreseeable outcome that promoting a person ill qualified to the promotion, making the other person in the department do all their work and the incompetent employees as well with no increase in salary, title or recognition would result in you leaving.

            My only hope is not only did the promoted person get demoted/canned once good employees were brought to replace you but whoever promoted them got the same.

    4. Caro in the UK*

      If I were one of the coworkers here, I would at least be expecting to get the same travel salary boost that the religious coworker is getting. It would still annoy me a little that I was having to do more than her (travel) for the same pay, but that’s sometimes part of religious accommodation (or any accommodation) and I’d deal with it. But if I was having to take on the travel for her, but without getting the extra salary, then I’d be steamed and looking to get out of there ASAP.

      Natalie’s right that employee morale isn’t a reason to deny a reasonable accommodation, but that doesn’t mean that it should be ignored. In a way there’s two separate issues here 1) can you accommodate religious coworker’s no-travel requirement and 2) how to minimize the impact of any accommodation on other staff.

      If your business can afford to pay the extra salary bump to the staff having to cover for her, then they really, really should.

      1. AMG*

        The other employees could always get the salary bumps and promotions too. Then, you have too many in that role after 1 year and need to lay someone off. IJS…

        1. Bryce*

          At which point it would be firing someone for their religion. Once religious beliefs have been invoked, there’s no way to sneak around it.

            1. Bryce*

              Yes. “Can’t do the job” is one thing, “religious accommodation needs us to give raises to other employees and now we have a cost reason to fire you” is another.

        2. Temperance*

          But then you run into a situation where Queen can invoke her religious accommodation to be subservient to her husband because her *peers* can handle travel, and she’s still getting paid to do a job that she isn’t doing. It’s better now that they might be able to demote her back to her original position and award someone more deserving/capable the promotion.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I don’t see any indication that she’s not capable; only that she has an obstacle. (Whether the obstacle is her faith or her husband is a matter of opinion, but fortunately isn’t relevant to the work situation per se.)

            At that point, it might indeed make sense to put her back in her original role, sans extra money and title, but I would be careful not to frame it as a demotion, or in any way referencing “deservingness” (ugh, what a word; sorry). My instinct would be to treat her statement about being unable to do the travel as way of notifying me that she was turning down the promotion after all… or else make that the accommodation she requested. Job reassignment is a legitimate form of accommodation, IIRC. But you do have to present it as a solution to her problem, not as a penalty for creating the company’s problem.

  6. Anonymous Poster*

    Wow, that’s so tricky! I enjoy reading just how tricky it is, because I never would have guessed what a minefield such a situation could be.

    I wonder, is it a factor at all that initially the travel wasn’t an issue, and then as religious convictions changed it became an issue? I’m sure there’s precedent for this, such as a convert to Islam no longer being able to staff a front desk during a prayer time or something along those lines… I’m wondering if the job function didn’t change but a person’s beliefs changed so that performing the essential job function is no longer wholly compatible with one’s beliefs, what sort of factor does that play here, and would that be any different from this, what sounds like, very corner case situation?

    1. Old Admin*

      I agree, reading two lawyers’ takes on this was extremely interesting and enlightening.
      Thank you for posting, AAM!

    2. Turanga Leela*

      I vaguely remember reading cases saying that even if you haven’t converted to a new religion, your religious beliefs can change, and your employer would still have to accommodate your new beliefs as long as they’re sincerely held. (That is, the employer has to accommodate them to the same extent as if you’d had them all along—if there’s no good accommodation, you could still lose your job.)

      But I’m not 100% sure of this, and it might vary depending on the jurisdiction.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        It seems reasonable to me. People do become more or less observant of their beliefs over time, or decide that they are more or less willing to incorporate some aspect of those beliefs. It isn’t (shouldn’t be) automatically suspect.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        You’re right. But one also need not change religions to end up in the employee’s situation. The sincerely held belief is to obey her husband, and he’s the one making up new restrictions—not her religion.

      3. Anonymous Poster*

        Awesome, thanks for letting me know! This makes sense since it keeps the employer from the value judgment about the religious beliefs (which I would not be okay with) and tries to accommodate them as possible, depending on the situation.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I think if the employer can show ” hardship” then the employer does not “have to” accommodate the new beliefs. The tricky part is conveying the nature of the hardship so that it is clear to other people.

  7. LBK*

    IANAL but I wonder how much this employee’s coworkers are covered by discrimination laws as well; arguably they’re being disadvantaged by not being whatever religion she is. It’s hard to see how she’s not getting special treatment as a result of her religion, ie being given a better title and a bigger paycheck without having to do the work solely because of her religious beliefs.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      That’s not how it works in the US. Religious accommodation requirements are *exactly* about getting special treatment based on your religion. As an easy example – most religious challenges to dress codes are upheld unless there’s some safety aspect involved. The company could choose to loosen the dress code for all employees, but it doesn’t have to.

      That said, I have no idea how the pay aspect here would work.

      1. LBK*

        I’d think it would be different because there’s a clear, concrete benefit being given to her as the result of her religion; being given an accommodation to wear a headscarf in exception of the dress code is pretty vague as an “unfair advantage” of some kind, but pay and title seems really straightforward to me as evidence of someone receiving something others can’t get specifically because of their religion.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I agree that the pay and promotion aspect is iffy and I don’t feel comfortable speculating on it. But I 100% know that you don’t get to claim religious discrimination because someone else is getting an accommodation and you aren’t.

          1. LBK*

            I think it’s the distinction between accommodation and benefit that’s the issue here; I completely understand that not getting an accommodation isn’t “reverse discrimination” or whatever you’d like to call it. It’s because I think the “accommodation” in this situation blurs the line into a benefit that I’d think her coworkers might have a case.

            At the very least it seems like disparate impact; she may not have gotten the promotion specifically because of her religion, but evaluating the work being done by her vs her coworkers and comparing their relative pay, it certainly looks like she gets an advantage because of her religion that’s not being given to her coworkers.

            1. Natalie*

              As far as I understand, the law makes no distinction between being exempted from something and getting something extra. Consider a Muslim employee who needs breaks at certain times to pray – that is something “extra” (an additional break) and there’s no requirement that you give all of your other employees a break at the same time. You certainly could, it would be a nice thing, but I doubt the EEOC would take up the complaint if you didn’t.

              1. LBK*

                But giving an accommodation doesn’t mean also still letting her get paid more. I think that’s where I’m getting stuck – I get that shifting the responsibilities around is perfectly within the bound of an accommodation. I don’t get how they can take her responsibilities but let her keep the pay and title when she’s effectively not doing that job anymore.

                1. Natalie*

                  Ah, so I think the issue here is that you’re assuming she isn’t doing *any* part of the higher job anymore. Whereas the letter only mentions offsite meetings & travel, which could be 0.01% of the job or 90% of the job, we don’t know.

                  If the travel was an essential function of the position – say, for example, that she was a roving corporate trainer for something that couldn’t be done by video conferencing – they would *not* be required to accommodate her religious prohibition against travel. But given the amount of travel the LW mentions, it is unlikely that the travel is a significant function of her job, so at this moment it’s not fair to assume that she’s doing nothing for the extra pay.

                2. LBK*

                  I think I’m also getting mixed up between the travel and the meetings at the office 10 miles away – that one I don’t see how she can get out of, since I imagine a weekly meeting is pretty important to the function of a job (although I certainly have standing weekly meetings that are far from essential, so who knows).

                3. The OP*

                  OP here. She’s doing MOST of the job. She’s refusing the traveling – weekly in-city meetings and occasional overnights to other cities. All of them are strategic and production meetings with important customers that her team serves. We can’t do it via video-conferencing… You can’t troubleshoot cash registers without being able to press the buttons, for instance. It’s a small part of her job but arguably the most important part.

                4. Gene*

                  She’s refusing the traveling – weekly in-city meetings

                  Is she refusing to do the in-town travel or not doing it because she doesn’t have a car anymore? If she’s refusing travel of any kind because it’s travel, that’s one thing and gets wrapped up in the religious accommodation mess. If she’s not doing it because she doesn’t have easy transportation, that’s another. As I said earlier, tell her to go to the in-town meetings. How she gets to them isn’t your problem.

        2. Retail HR Guy*

          But the law in the US is very clear that religious people [I]do[/I] get “clear, concrete” benefits as a result of their religious beliefs. Religious employees that don’t have to work Sundays, Saturdays, or Christmas get a clear, concrete benefit others would love to have. Employees that get extra time off to go to Mecca during the busy season while others get their vacation requests turned down (because they are needed to cover the religious employee’s time off) are getting a clear, concrete benefit. Extra breaks to pray or meditate are clear, concrete benefits.

          The law is discriminatory by its very nature in the sense that you are required to treat religious people differently and give them special rights other employees don’t have (though it aims at the inclusive end goal of religious people being able to work without compromising their religious beliefs).

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              This isn’t about discrimination, though, it’s about religious accommodation. It’s a First Amendment issue, not employment discrimination. Two different (if often entwined) requirements.

              1. Turkletina*

                “Discrimination” isn’t my word here, though. Retail HR Guy said that the accommodation laws are discriminatory. All I’m trying to say is that they are not.

                1. Retail HR Guy*

                  The net effect of the law isn’t discriminatory (or isn’t intended to be, at least), but when the law flat out requires you to treat two classes of employees differently, I can’t see how you could argue that no discrimination is occurring at that base level according to the meaning of the word.

                  That’s really all I’m trying to say. I’m not making a judgment call on whether it’s good or bad.

                2. Student*

                  Consider an Atheist and Christian under the eyes of religious accommodation laws.

                  Atheists can’t claim any additional holidays, breaks, days of the week they can’t work, travel-related accommodations, food restrictions, or health-related exemptions as religious exemptions. They may hold sincere beliefs about those things, but being Atheists, their sincere beliefs are not religiously motivated, and so are not privileged by the state as something the workplace must make a good-faith effort to accommodate.

                  For example, consider an Atheist who’s read (hypothetical) scientific literature that says we’re more productive and happier if we get 15 extra minutes of break during the day beyond what the state and local laws provide. The Atheist sincerely believes this break is important- but it’s not motivated by religion, so the business has no obligation to allow the extra break.

                  However, if the Christian coworker’s pastor says there’s a new religious observance for the sect requiring all members of the church to pray at exactly 3:00-3:15 every day, the Christian can talk to their manager and usually get such an accommodation under the law. Further, even though the Christian coworker is now taking an extra 15-minute break during the day, the Atheist is still not legally entitled to one.

                  The state privileges religious beliefs above other forms of decision-making. It privileges religions with more restrictive practices above religions with less individual restrictions, or restrictions that don’t intersect with employment. It is discriminatory against certain faiths in favor of others.

                3. JM60*

                  “Retail HR Guy said that the accommodation laws are discriminatory.”

                  Abomination laws basically let (sometimes require) employers to discriminate against the non – religious. If every religious employee is required to get the day off for the Holy days of their religion (without others getting those days off), that discriminates against non-religious atheists because they won’t get as many days off due to their religious status.

                4. Working Hypothesis*

                  Sure they are. Any religious accommodation rule is discriminatory, because it privileges religious people over secular ones. I don’t get to make my company accommodate my sincerely held beliefs… because those beliefs, no matter how sincerely held or how important to me, don’t involve a deity.

                  The standard judicial interpretations of the religious clause in the First Amendment avoid (most of the time; not always) privileging religion over secularism when dealing with the “respecting an establishment of religion” subclause, but there is no way they can do that when dealing with the “prevent the free exercise thereof” subclause, and they don’t try. The first amendment itself, by including that clause without an equivalent protection for the free exercise of any other philosophy, is discriminating in favor of religion. That’s just built into the system.

              2. justcourt*

                The 1st Amendment protects individuals from the government interfering with their right to exercise their religious belief. The 1st Amendment does not prevent employers from interfering with the religious beliefs of their employees.

                The Civil Rights Act protects individuals from discrimination by their employers.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Retail HR Guy is saying that in a quest to prevent discrimination, it ends up creating other kinds of (legal) discrimination. Jane can’t have Sundays off; Bob can, because of his religious faith. That’s a form of discrimination, although it’s one we’ve decided is legal. There’s room, though, to question whether the laws work the way we want them to and if they’re fair by standards other than the ones we’ve grown accustomed to using legally.

              1. Retail HR Guy*

                Yes, that’s my point exactly! And I’m not even trying to come down one way or the other on whether the law is working as intended or is fair in the grand scheme of things. It’s something I’m honestly conflicted about and don’t have a good answer for.

                1. Scott*

                  well in another sense it is fair. Anytime you don’t or aren’t able to do a portion of your job you are likely hurting yourself as well. For example the person for whom travel isn’t a problem is likely going to have an advantage in terms of experience and promotabilty.

                2. Temperance*

                  Apparently, not in this scenario, though. The person who received the promotion walked back her ability to travel and even attend meetings locally. Her underlings are required to do these things for her, without the better title.

                3. Not So NewReader*

                  I have a friend who is a lawyer. She is wise and I respect her opinion this means we end up in lengthy conversations about laws.

                  I agree with you Retail HR Guy and maybe my friend’s idea will help you some, okay, maybe a tiny bit.

                  The first thing my friend says is to look at the era/times when the law was originally written. What problem was the law trying to address?

                  Next is to look at how we have changed since then, society is not stagnant. Because we evolve our needs change, our priorities change.
                  Laws that seemed to work FOR us, no longer do that much and in some cases are harmful.

                  Landlord tenant laws are a great example.It use to be that tenants were exploited by landlords. Laws were written to stop that exploitation. Now the pendulum has gone the opposite direction and landlords could use certain protections under the law that they do not have. [Insert lengthy point-by-point discussion here. My friend is amazing to talk with.]

                  I see a similar idea here, where we now how religious freedom firmly protected, but what about those who have no particular religious beliefs or group they belong to? Do they have to do twice the work because someone wants Christmas off or whatever? I can hear my friend saying something like this: The law will have to be amended in such a way that those who do not participate in religious holidays are not abused by the law protecting people’s rights to have religious holidays. My thought would be to have some system for accounting for and balancing the time involved. There’s a reason I don’t write laws and you are seeing it here. I am just trying to give you an idea of why things go this way.

                  So, clearly, IANAL and this is in no way intended to be a technical explanation. I am borrowing my friend’s overview of what she sees going on with laws. The catch is big wheels turn slowly. It takes us a LONG time to bring our laws up to where our society is at.

                  In some ways this is good. We don’t want laws changing at the same pace we change our socks. (Yet, confusingly, in some arenas the laws change even faster than sock-pace.)

                  I belong to a church but I do not request certain holidays off because I do not have local family. So if my current employer is open on a holiday, I will usually volunteer to go in. I see the problem that you are pointing out.

              2. Hrovitnir*

                My feeling is that this is OK – in a country where you get a decent amount of leave. Where you’re only getting, say, 5 days paid time off and little to no paid sick leave I can see why it would be more fraught to see religious coworkers getting time off you can’t access.

          1. Turkletina*

            To be more constructive, the law prevents discrimination in the sense that an employer cannot refuse to hire members of a particular religious community just because those members need certain days off. If that kind of hiring logic were allowed, members of religious minorities would have a nearly impossible time finding employment, especially in retail and service.

              1. Turkletina*

                You said the law was discriminatory. The law is not discriminatory; the law *prevents* discrimination.

                I’m not going to argue any further, but these are contradictory positions.

                1. Retail HR Guy*

                  The law prevents greater societal discrimination by requiring employers to engage in the lower-level discrimination inherent in treating religious beliefs differently than non-religious beliefs, and religious employees different than non-religious ones. Nothing self-contradictory in that.

                  See also affirmative action, Indian rights, etc.

                2. JM60*

                  “You said the law was discriminatory. The law is not discriminatory; the law *prevents* discrimination.”

                  In some cases, the law requires that I be discriminated against for not having any religious beliefs.

                3. Working Hypothesis*

                  That’s true, and it may be that we need to do some things to avoid that which ends up discriminating against secular people, because that happens sometimes.

                  If person A has a sincere belief that they should take the summer solstice off to celebrate because their god told them to, their right to do so it’s protected, and their employer is required to allow it. If person B has an equally sincere belief that they should take the summer solstice off to celebrate, because it’s a special moment in the natural cycle and worthy of celebration, but no deity is involved, their right to do so it’s not protected, and their employer is not required to let them do it.

                  This is discrimination against people whose beliefs are not based on any god or gods. It’s a well-intentioned discrimination designed to try and prevent a different form of discrimination, but it is discriminating nevertheless. What it amounts to is the legally codified value judgment that non-religious beliefs are not as important as religious ones, and it is therefore okay to force people to choose between violating their belief and going jobless… so long as the belief doesn’t involve a god. Implicit in this value judgment is the assumption that anyone whose beliefs *don’t* involve a god can’t possibly care as deeply about the need to adhere to those beliefs as if they did involve a god, and so of course they’ll always be comfortable choosing to violate their belief and keep their job, without it bothering them much. This isn’t always true, however… and when it isn’t, there is no protection available for the secular person who loses a job because they couldn’t perform a minor job duty without violating a sincerely held belief.

          2. Dizzy Steinway*

            Fair doesn’t mean the same.

            Equality doesn’t equal special treatment.

            End of public service broadcast.

            1. Retail HR Guy*

              If the end goal of equality didn’t sometimes require special treatment for some, there would be no need for this law.

            2. JM60*

              “Fair doesn’t mean the same.”

              Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. If a business takes the approach of “We have no holidays, and everyone gets to have 25 days off each year for any reason,” that’s fair (depending on how it’s devoted so gets certain days of off). If a business instead takes the approach of “We have 10 holidays, everyone gets 15 other days off for any reason, plus anyone who is religious additionally gets the holy days of their religion off”, that unfairly treats non religious people differently.

          3. Engineer Girl*

            This is one of the most illogical statements I’ve seen. It assumes that work is a zero sum game where someone “loses” if someone else benefits. That’s not true!
            An employee asks for one day off because of their religion. I want to point out that there are 6 other days of the week they can work. That allows other employees to take days off too.
            Employees should expect to work additional time to make up for the time off for prayer times etc. Maybe they have to come in an hour earlier, etc. Going to Mecca is tougher because that is very date-specific. That said, the employee should expect to cover for other busy seasons. And BTW, Mecca is usually a once in a lifetime thing, so it’s not like the employee is messing with people’s schedules every year.
            In short, there usually is no additional benefit for being religious or not. It is simply taking the time and effort to get everyone’s needs met. If a religious employee is reaping greater benefits than a non-religious one then management isn’t handling it properly. Blaming the religious employee is a tactic of lazy management.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              I didn’t see anyone blaming religious people who willingly work in other ways to compensate for the accommodations the need. Mostly, all I see in this thread is the matter of fact statement that if management handles the issue in a way which simply gives the religious employees whatever they need *without* expecting them to work different times or in different ways to compensate for it, and dumps the extra work that they aren’t able to do because of their religion on secular employees without compensating them for it, they are discriminating against the secular. That’s on management, not on the religious employees; as you say, there are always ways to arrange accommodations which don’t require this. But it isn’t wrong to say that when they choose not to use those ways, and instead just expect the non-religious employees to pick up the slack, they are being discriminatory.

    2. Sunflower*

      How does the law work if you are talking about moving someone into a different position and changing their salary to accommodate them? I assume if they changed her position into one that didn’t require travel but kept the same salary, she would have to deal but how does it work if you keep them employed but change them to a lower paid position? Does that still count as a reasonable accommodation or does it turn into discrimination?

      1. Scott*

        that may be discriminatory in and of itself. It’s kinda hard to argue not doing a non essential task justifies a pay decrease or demotion.

  8. Ann O'Nemity*

    Yikes, what a slippery slope this could become if the OP needs to treat “husband says so” as a religion accommodation.

    1. EddieSherbert*


      That just SOUNDS bizarre… There’s just no reasonable accommodation for “third party person I did not hire dictates my employee’s behavior.”

    2. INFJ*

      Yeah, I’m not following the logic behind this one. The religious belief isn’t that she can’t travel. And if her obeying her husband IS a “sincerely held belief”, then that shouldn’t enter into the workplace at all… he’s inserting his own personal preferences into this.

      1. Hibiscus*

        Her belief is that she has to follow her husband’s guidance and obey; it doesn’t matter what belief he is justifying as religious.

    3. BethRA*

      Right. Though even if “husband says so” qualifies for religious consideration, that doesn’t mean the requested accommodation has to be granted if it’s not workable for the business.

    4. caryatis*

      If her religion says she must obey her husband, that needs to be accommodated to the extent it’s not an undue hardship as with any religious belief. The employer doesn’t get out of accommodating her by saying the husband is a third party. It’s no different than the person saying, “I must do X because my pastor says so,” or because God says so, for that matter. There are churches out there that teach male supremacy, and however bizarre and objectionable I and other commenters find this belief, it is not the employer’s place to decide which religious beliefs are valid or not.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        The trouble, though, is that the husband could change his mind at any time about any aspect of his wife’s employment. I’ve never heard of religious accommodations that are subject to this kind of capriciousness.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          If you could show that the employees needs changed rapidly and frequently enough that they couldn’t be accommodated without undue hardship, you might have an argument, but you’d probably need to show a pattern of that actually happening, not a concern that it *might* happen.

        2. fposte*

          It doesn’t matter if it’s never happened anywhere else at all, though–as long as it’s a sincerely held religious belief by this employee, it’s a legitimate query and needs to be treated as such.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            I worked on a religious accommodations case once that involved a never-before-seen request (in my state, at least). It was a ball. The lesson I took from it was that questioning the sincerity of a belief is a really, really heavy lift. It’s far more effective to focus on the other requirements.

            1. ProfessorHops*

              I’m dying for a teapot-flavored analogy for the accommodation of first impression.

          2. AD*

            That’s obscuring a bit that the reluctance to *travel* isn’t the sincerely held belief, but rather the *obeisance to one’s husband* is what seems to be claimed here.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          There is a problem with scope creep here, how much authority does the husband have over his wife’s work and workplace?

          Arguably, because the company has no way of knowing what other accommodations maybe necessary in the future the couple could win this case and lose the next one.

          Meanwhile the company goes in the red and then bankrupt from all the legal bills involved here. I don’t think this was the intent of the law.

      2. LN*

        I mean, IANAL but I agree with lawyer #1 on this – no matter how sincere, the belief that she must do WHATEVER HER HUSBAND SAYS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES is not something a workplace can be expected to accommodate. It’s not the same as an employee consulting with their pastor, or even with their higher power – ultimately, the decision is still theirs, and they are trying to balance their belief with their presumable desire to perform their job duties. The husband isn’t God, nor is he a pastor who might be consulted on a case-by-case basis. He’s a human being who wields real control over her life, and is intimately involved with every aspect of it. He may or may not want her to even keep this job, and he may be intentionally sabotaging her. And he’s calling the shots. For the record, if someone were in a similar situation with their pastor – driving them to work, dictating every aspect of their life, etc – I’d say the same thing. The workplace really can’t set up reasonable accommodations for this situation. It’s just not possible. The religious aspect adds a wrinkle, and a pretty big one at that. But it doesn’t make the unreasonable reasonable.

        1. N.J.*

          I have her no that may be the disconnect with the discussion here and several commenters questioning accommodating this situation. I believe there are two separate issues at play here. The first is the sincerity of her religious belief. I agree with those that say we shouldn’t question the sincerity of her belief. Her religion says to obey her husband, no questions. As disgusting as I would personally view that belief, it was a a sincerely held belief almost by default, as it would seem most religious beliefs would be given the benefit of the doubt as sincere. The sincerity of the belief has nothing to do with its reasonableness. It may be that the employee could argue undue hardship in accommodating this belief, which may be tied together the unreasonableness of letting a third party dictate the employer/employee relationship. Thst doesn’t ever mean the employee’s belief isn’t sincerely and fervently held, it just means that ultimately it could be an undue hardship to accommodate it. Reason has nothing to do with it. Reason has to do with the ability to accommodate the belief not whether the belief would be judged legitimate or sincere. I know you aren’t necessarily stating all that but your response focuses on the unreasonableness of the husband dictating her every move. The reasonableness of his control isn’t something that can be debated, it’s the reasonableness of the effort the business would need to perform to accommodate that belief. The absurdity of a husband or pastor dictating everything the employee does isn’t really within the control of the employee to question or address, just the absurdity of the actions they would need to take to accommodate it.

          1. Employment Lawyer*

            Of course you can question sincerity of religious belief. Because if you don’t, then it is basically impossible to push back against anything. In fact, there are a whole host of cases where people invented “religious belief” which conveniently happened to match what they, personally, want.

            As I explained in response #1, one of the factors in the “sincerity” analysis (though not the only factor) is how long you’ve held it. Of course beliefs can change, but they shouldn’t change whimsically.

            1. Natalie*

              Can you elaborate on how the process works to question the sincerity? My understanding is that you can’t necessarily use the behavior of other people in the faith or some kind of official “church rules”, so it’s not really clear what avenues one would have.

              1. Employment Lawyer*

                I didn’t want to ignore you, but I can’t elaborate on the process here because it’s really complicated and I don’t have time. Sorry.

              2. KellyK*

                Consistency is probably a big one. If you can’t work on chocolate teapots because your religion forbids you from touching chocolate, and you then eat handfuls of Hershey kisses on your lunch break, that casts all kinds of doubt on the sincerity.

                It might be a slippery enough slope that no one wants to go down it, but I can also see asking *why* you believe something. That is, what is it about your religion that this is an important part of it? The answer itself isn’t important, but *having* one makes it more likely that you didn’t just pull a belief out of nowhere because it was convenient.

              3. HannahS*

                IANAL but I know consistency across all spheres of life. So if I tell my boss I can’t reply to emails because I don’t use technology on Saturdays, but there’s evidence of emails I’ve sent to my friends on Saturdays, then no dice. B

            2. N.J.*

              I agree that it up can question sincerity, and I’m not a law professional so everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. But LN was characterizing this as something that could never be accommodated as a sincerely held religious belief because that would open up this situation to being dictated by the husband’s whims. I didn’t think you could dismiss a religious belief just because you think it’s outlandish, which is what LN seemed to be saying. In your response to Alison, you linked to a manual that goes into great depth related to how employers handle these situations. The only thing I thought was certain is that it depends and that sincerity isn’t based on whether we think the belief is stupid or not and is mitigated by countless considerations. I also felt LN was conflating by the reasonableness of the belief with the reasonableness of accommodating which seem to be two separate issues. Can an employee question the sincerity of the belief based on the opinion of others as to whether the belief is reasonable? That’s basically the question I thought I was addressing. I apologize if I communicated something else entirely or muddied up the understandable no of the legal obligations here, as I have no legal expertise whatsoever. I really thought I was raising an important point.

          2. Sarah*

            I agree with all of this. After all, an employer would certainly not be expected to accommodate the religious belief of “My religion says I should only work 3 hours per week, but should be paid for 40 hours of work per week,” regardless of how sincerely held that belief might be!

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Where do we find this church? I am sure there are many of us who would sign up today, if we thought we’d get this. (LOL)

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                A kid in my high school decided to invent his own religion which required him to wear yellow all the time, and take Wednesdays off. He got away with it, too (mostly because the school knew him, and decided he would probably get bored of the whole thing before they needed to interfere).

      3. Blue Anne*

        Yes. Thank you. I was struggling to articulate this, reading a lot of these answers, but that’s exactly it. Yes, a third party does dictate the behavior of your religious employees. It’s just unusual for that to be their husband rather than their pastor or rabbi.

        Or at least unusual for that to visibly be the case.

        1. Morning Glory*

          A pastor will only dictate your employee’s behavior about specific religious matters e.g. what foods are forbidden to the religion, what time of day to pray, etc.

          The employee’s religious belief that she submit to her husband means the husband dictates actions outside the scope of their religion. He is not translating or enforcing their religious beliefs like a pastor or other authority would. He could say he doesn’t like scallions, he likes her hair in braids, he wants a foot massage every day at lunchtime. The husband isn’t dictating these things out of his own religious beliefs the way the pastor is – his orders have nothing to do with religion whatsoever, it’s just what he wants. Her need to obey them is religious, but not his dictates. That is very different from a pastor dictating behavior.

          1. Natalie*

            A pastor will only dictate your employee’s behavior about specific religious matters e.g. what foods are forbidden to the religion, what time of day to pray, etc.

            I doubt we can confidently make that claim about every single flavor of every single religion that exists in the world. Religious accommodation covers all the fringe religions, too.

      4. Retail HR Guy*

        But certainly you see the slippery slope here.

        “My husband says I must take extra breaks.”
        “My husband says I shouldn’t empty my own trash can. You do it.”
        “My husband says I should be able to come in late on Mondays.”
        “My husband says I shouldn’t clean out the break room fridge when it’s my turn.”
        “My husband says I shouldn’t have to work alongside Susie because she’s a bitch.”

        Would you really have to grant each and every request that comes in barring undue hardship?

        1. caryatis*

          That’s exactly where the undue hardship analysis would come in, and probably questions about the sincerity of the belief. But the employer can’t deny this particular accommodation because other hypothetical accommodations would be unreasonable.

        2. LBK*

          As long as none of those things impede her ability to perform essential job duties, the EEOC says you’re legally required to try to accommodate them.

        3. LQ*

          I think you have to evaluate every request separately and as it comes in.

          I’d say the real problem here is on the other side where each one of them wouldn’t constitute an undue hardship but all of them together might. Coming in 30 minutes late might be fine. Leaving 30 minutes early might be fine. But together they are a 35 instead of 40 hour work week. I’m not sure what the cumulative back looking works like. Do you each time stop and evaluate the totality of all religious accommodation requests or if they trickle in can you only evaluate each one separately? I’m not sure on that. But you can’t …pre-evaluate them.

    5. The Wall of Creativity*

      And if the employee in this case can’t get her (husband’s) way for religious reasons, what would happen if employee’s husband was the pope? would the employer have to just suck it up in that case?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Well… ideally the pope isn’t married. ;)

        But the bounds for religious accommodation is the “undue hardship” test. The problem isn’t “who has authority to determine if this is an acceptable religious practice,” it’s “can the request be accommodated.”

      2. The Wall of Creativity*

        Ah OK. so “My husband’s the pope and won’t let me use computers” is more likely to see the employee kicked out than “My husband’s a pain in the ass and insists that I only use blue biros.” And it works the same way if I substitute Trump for the pope or for the pain. It’s all making more sense now.

  9. Mike C.*

    Thanks for reaching out to so many different sources, there’s a lot of consider here and I find the topic rather shocking and fascinating at the same time.

  10. Falling Diphthong*

    IANAL, but it seems like there is a sharp distinction between requirements like a religious head covering, stopping at specific times to pray, not eating a given food, and not working Saturday, versus “any job requirement that my spouse/parent/religious leader spontaneously decides next week is no longer okay, then I don’t have to do it.”

    In part because of consistency–does this rule apply to all members of the faith, and so is something addressed one time? (So either on hiring, or upon the religious conversion.) You can’t hire a conservative Orthodox Jew to cover the Saturday shift, so just work with that. You can’t make them eat cheese burgers as a job requirement. That’s very far from random rules that can be newly imposed each week–so retaining this employee, in this role, you don’t know what’s going to be religiously allowed and forbidden next week or next month or Thursday. That seems at odds with the spirit of the law.

    In part because it seems there would be no limit to the wackiness–does the outside person get to rule against answering the phone? filing? cooperating with audits? copying accounting on relevant emails?

    1. LBK*

      I think this is part of the “sincerely held belief” clause, ie the person requesting the accommodation is the one who tells you whether they need to follow the rule or not, rather than you getting to make a decision on their behalf about how serious the rule is.

      The last part of your comment is addressed by the EEOC, insofar as someone still needs to be able to perform the basic requirements of their job. If you hire a receptionist and she says she can’t answer the phone, you don’t have to accommodate that just because it’s a religious belief.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq*

      As I recall, sincerely held belief is determined by individual, not by faith, so even beliefs that aren’t widely held in a religious group can be considered sincerely held by the individual in question. The idea that the rules might change from week to week could speak against them being truly sincerely held, but I think the better analysis would be on reasonableness of accommodating changing wishes, as the sincerely held belief appears to be obeying her husband no matter how capricious his instructions.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The part that feels very off is that she cannot promise what will be her husband’s sincerely held beliefs relevant to work tomorrow. Reasonable accommodation would seem to require some consistency from the person requesting that accommodation.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I don’t think the law allows you to refuse to accommodate just because you think it will open you up to future accommodation requests. The OP probably needs to focus request-by-request. People’s religious beliefs can change – employers don’t get to say that they are only valid if accommodation is requested at the time of employment (or promotion).

        2. caryatis*

          I don’t agree that consistency is required to request accommodation. A person’s religious beliefs can change, as well as what their husband/priest/God says. Same thing in the disability space—if someone requests a handicapped parking space, the employer can’t say no on the grounds that they didn’t need it last year. Similarly, you can’t refuse a religious accommodation because the person didn’t need it in the past.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      does the outside person get to rule against answering the phone? filing? cooperating with audits? copying accounting on relevant emails?

      The person has to be able to perform the essential functions of the position (with or without accommodation), so if those are essential functions, then no.

      But the law does require you to attempt to accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs even if they’re inconvenient, until the point where it would cause undue hardship (which this situation might very well trigger, depending on how it plays out — but right now the fact that the husband COULD weigh in on those things in the future but hasn’t yet probably doesn’t qualify).

      1. Meg Murry*

        I also wonder whether the travel would really hold up to the definition of “essential function”, as the second lawyer pointed out. Right now, OP’s company is sending someone else in this employee’s place. But is sending an employee on a travel assignment truly an essential function of this job/company? For instance, one could argue that for an on-site safety audit, the travel would be essential. Or to make some kind of delivery or repair to customer equipment. But travel for the sake of customer relations or to attend a meeting might not hold up to the “essential” in court – especially if the accommodations like Skype/videoconferencing, etc could be used instead.

        If OP suggests that the employee take a voluntary demotion back to the previous position that didn’t require travel, could that be construed as religious discrimination?

        I think a huge part of this whole argument depends on whether the difference between the employee’s previous position and the new role was pretty much just the travel requirement or whether there are other additional responsibilities that go along with the promotion and travel is only a small part of it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Hopefully, they have a written job description that says the employee must attend weekly meetings and travel several times a year.

          I am not sure the court can step in and tell a business, “No, you don’t need her at those weekly meetings.” The employee’s attorney might try to argue the need for the weekly meetings but it would just that a rebuttal or counterpoint. Hopefully, the company’s attorney could reply to that with ease.

      2. JM60*

        “But the law does require you to attempt to accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs”

        What about sincerely held beliefs that aren’t religious? From an ethical perspective, I don’t see why there should be a greater obligation to accommodate a sincere religious belief more than any other sincerely held moral belief.

  11. MegaMoose, Esq*

    Oh, that’s interesting (and maybe kind of sad, but I guess that’s between the employee and her spouse). My instinct would be to come at this from the “what do we need to do to accommodate this” angle rather than question the sincerely held belief angle. In my state at least, an individual gets an awful lot of leeway when it comes to what constitutes a sincerely held belief. I would think that if she’s only being paid more because of the travel, you wouldn’t have to keep that in place, but you also probably don’t want to look like she’s getting a demotion because of her religion.

    As AAM said, this is definitely a good time to talk to an attorney of your own.

  12. Merida May*

    I’m not a lawyer but I really feel like given the circumstances a demotion should at least be on the table here. From OP’s letter it seems like the person had an understanding of the requirements and had opportunity to broach concerns over her ability to fulfill the duties of the role. She chose not to disclose. I’m also concerned that this might be a bit of a slippery slope. Job duties change over time, is she going to have to run every new responsibility by her husband? Will every task he says she shouldn’t do be assigned to someone of a lower pay grade?

    1. LBK*

      If I had to guess, I’d say she did actually plan on following through with the travel requirement but didn’t disclose it to her husband beforehand, and then he’s the one who put the kibosh on it after the fact when he found out.

      1. Merida May*

        I think that is probably what happened, too. I guess I was just thinking about how if she were to really double down on this being a sincerely held religious belief, wouldn’t it be a strike against her that she didn’t find it noteworthy enough to bring up until after she had secured her promotion?

        1. LBK*

          The sincerely-held belief is just that she should do what her husband says, though; I don’t think I blame her for not being able to predict the ways in which he might wield that power.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Nope—there are no strikes for failing to disclose before promotion or for changing or adopting new sincerely held beliefs. Accommodation discussions should not be focused on blame it on challenging whether a person’s sincerely held belief is legitimate, consistent, etc.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            But presumably they should be focused on figuring out how she can be accommodated in a way that allows her to do her job, not on how she can hand off parts of her job to other people. For example, as others have mentioned, not being able to drive doesn’t have to mean she can’t attend offsite meetings.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                But it shouldn’t be the first option in this case, when the task itself isn’t the issue, only the other things she has to do related to it (travel). If the only reason she can’t go to offsite meetings is because her religion requires her to obey her husband’s edict against driving, she could take a cab. She could consider Skype. Handing off other parts of her job should happen when she can’t do those parts of her job, and that’s not where she is.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Absolute agreed. I’m just chafing at the posts accusing the employee of dishonesty.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, but the issue is that if you can accommodate the religious request without undue hardship (which is probably the case since the travel is so infrequent), the law requires you to do that. You can’t deny accommodations based on it feeling like a slippery slope or concerns about what might happen in the future; you have to deal with the specific request before you.

      1. L Dub*

        Without causing undue hardship to whom though? Specifically in this scenario, if the travel is that infrequent it may not be undue hardship to the employer, but isn’t it undue hardship on the other employees that have to cover the travel without the title and pay to compensate?

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          The test is pretty thorough and takes into account impact on other employees, but at bottom, accommodation is between an employee and employer. An undue hardship analysis should not be driven by whether other employees think it’s fair or burdensome for them.

        2. LBK*

          Per the EEOC website, redistributing work only counts as undue hardship if “it requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work.” I’m not sure attending a few work trips a year and going to meetings 10 miles away would reach the standard of being “burdensome”.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I’m not sure attending a few work trips a year and going to meetings 10 miles away would reach the standard of being “burdensome”.

            It’s four to twelve overnight trips a year. I don’t know the legal definition of “burdensome,” but I’d find it so.

            And let’s take it a step further. Let’s say I’m a single parent, or a dog owner, or both, and I have to make arrangements for overnight childcare and kennel my dog for all of these trips. And let’s say I didn’t apply for that promotion because I knew this type of care was expensive and difficult to arrange and I decided the job just wasn’t worth it. And now I’m told that since my colleague’s husband doesn’t want her to travel, I get that onerous part of her job, but not the other benefits of the position and not the increased pay. This isn’t burdensome for my employer, who isn’t paying for the kennel or arranging for overnight childcare, but it’s absolutely burdensome to me. Does that count?

            1. Natalie*

              As the covering employee you would have to take that opportunity to either refuse, or to negotiate some compensation that made it acceptable for you to take the trips. But importantly, the employer *cannot* refuse to make the accommodation because they think you *might* have an objection to covering the trips. “Undue hardship” can’t be based on hypotheticals.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Well, I understand my hardship in this case is hypothetical, because the entire situation is hypothetical. But pretend it’s real. Pretend I’m standing there in front of the OP saying “you asking me to go on these trips instead of Ms. Queen is putting a real hardship on me.” Is that the kind of hardship that counts, under the law?

                1. Natalie*

                  Potentially yes, if the court agreed that what you were being asked to do what “burdensome” by their standards.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            If a candidate said on an interview, “No I cannot travel once a week for meetings and I cannot take over night trips several times a year”, would that candidate get hired for this job anyway?

            I am thinking probably not. I think this has some bearing here that the employer would not knowingly hire a candidate with these limitations because the job requires the employee to do this travel.

            I am not seeing a religious accommodation happening on this one. Current employees with the same job title are required to do these things this helps to verify that it is a requirement of the job.

      2. AMG*

        It may be essential, though. I was an operations manager who needed to fly to our warehouse in another state and complete an inventory audit, including vendor management, Systems adjustments, Inventory planning adjustments, Detailed reporting, and customer service order modifications. We had more than 15 employees but were still pretty small, so I was really the only one who could do it. It was quarterly also, but there were other needs for travel that were just as essential. My point is, I wouldn’t discount the infrequency of the travel as likely being inessential or something someone else can do. In the case of my old job, it really would have been a hardship on the company to have anyone else do it.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          There are some projects at my job too that have infrequent but essential meetings. For instance, there’s a training program that involves teams working together at different places and they meet I think once a year. The person at my workplace only has to to travel once a year for a 2-day or so trip, but it’s essential she’s there. She’s worked so much with them and knows what they’re doing to the point no one else could easily fill in.

      3. Kinsley M.*

        I would argue that the husband’s requirements are the religious request though. Her religion does not prevent her from traveling. She is requesting a religious accommodation to listen to her husband over her boss. She is not requesting a religious accommodation to not travel. Travel just happens to be the husband’s requirement.

      4. Gadfly*

        Slippery slope is a fallacy for a reason. If then maybe they might just is not a solid argument.

      5. Aveline*

        And this is how it should be.

        If you put it in another arena: If a woman is pregnant and asks for leave/to be able to pump for breastfeeding/etc. in order to be a mother and work, you deal only with the issues she brings up to you, not the possible “parade of horribles.”

        Same thing if the person is disabled.

        Actually, for any type of accomodation at work: deal with what is in front of you.

    3. Mazzy*

      I know what really gets me is not that travel is forbidden in whatever religion this is, but the husband obedience part. That can mean anything on any given day. And how toll do you tie what he says back to a religion? Or do you not have to?

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        If your sincerely held belief is that you have to obey your husband, I do not think his specific commands need to be tied to anything.

      2. EternalAdmin*

        ~rant~ And, this is the kind of crap that makes it difficult to be religious in today’s society. You get a controlling jerk of a guy who uses religion on his whim and makes every other religious person get eye rolls. There needs to be a clearly defined line to keep employers out of the legal mire. ~end rant~

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          The First Amendment is allergic to clearly defined lines. Which is why SCOTUS rules on “what is allowed in our state holiday display” cases approximately seventeen times a year.

          1. EternalAdmin*

            I can only begin to imagine the cost of all this. It makes me wince, and have a bit of compassion for employers.

        2. Temperance*

          I do not think that this is true, or a productive contribution to the discussion. I grew up in a faith that followed Titus 2, and women were supposed to be help-meets and men were supposed to lead the family. This is probably more common than you believe, and no, this is not why “every other religious person” gets eye rolls. Because seriously, most people here hadn’t heard of this, it’s not as widely seen.

          1. HungryBeforeLunch*

            I’ve heard of them and immediately thought of it when I read the post. Passages from Timothy also apply. If she’s working, it is because he gave her permission to work.

            Wonder if they have kids…or if she will quit when she does have them.

            If you want to live that way, that’s your choice but it gets tricky when you try to live that way outside the bubble of your home and there are consequences, such as a cut in pay since you can no longer do the job you agreed to do.

            1. Temperance*

              Exactly. FWIW, the women I grew up with who fell in line with Titus 2 fully accepted that they weren’t “of the world” and they planned their lives accordingly. They basically put God first, and managed their affairs in a way that worked for them.

          2. Sylvia*

            I thought of the same thing. It’s more common than it looks and it has some cultural influence outside of its adherents, too.

    4. The OP*

      OP here. She’s traveled once since the promotion. I think she really intended to fulfill that part originally. She’s a conscientious person and I doubt she would have misled anyone as to her ability to perform all of the functions. It was after she went on an overnight business trip that her husband put the kibosh on any further travel. Apparently he was ok with adhoc travel in her prior role (not required in her official job description, just directed by her boss to do on occasion). But once he found out it would be consistent, monthly or so, he told her no more. Told her it disrupts the household too much, and he needs to be able to rely on her to be home. (They don’t have kids or pets so I really don’t know what a simple overnight away could mess up, but it’s not my life to live…)

      1. Merida May*

        Thanks for coming in with that info! I was off base with my initial assessment and this was helpful. I am still reading the comments since I last posted, but is there any way she could do a webinar or have teleconference arrangements made in place of her traveling? Not sure what the purpose of the travel is and if that is an option, but it might be worth looking in to. This is a hard one and there is a lot of great advice here – hopefully it helps!

      2. Hrovitnir*

        This makes me sad. It’s possible she’s enthusiastic about her role as subservient to him, but it doesn’t really sound like it. I hope you can resolve this in a way that is effective for you and her coworkers and she manages to stay with you. “Anxious the whole time he waits” is… not good, regardless of abuse.

  13. Detective Amy Santiago*

    This whole letter made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It reminded me of that Criminal Minds episode with Derek’s cousin.

    OP, please find a way to discretely give this employee information about domestic abuse support in the area or refer her to an EAP if your company has one.

  14. namelesscommentater*

    I’d be livid if I were one of the employees being asked to do her job because her husband doesn’t want her to do it. Can you afford to offer them some compensation in the short term? Can you afford to lose them over this/the travel not to happen?

    Consult a lawyer, address other performance issues quickly, and post some DV hotlines/shelters/resources in a discreet area like the women’s restroom.

    1. Frozen Ginger*

      Don’t mean to go off topic, but OP if you do the bathroom posting, you should do it in both bathrooms (women and men.

      1. AnotherAnon*

        Yes, please do post in both bathrooms! It might be worthwhile to look for resources (with hotline/shelter info) that list red flags for abuse, specifically.

        And I agree that any other employees that take over parts of her duties should be compensated – whether that’s financially or a change in title (or both).

      2. Hrovitnir*

        Absolutely – though you’ll often need some different organisations for men (helplines tend to be unisex though if there are any that specialise in helping men that would be good: most women’s shelters don’t house men so if there is somewhere that again has resources dedicated to men that would be ideal. Women’s shelters will try and help if there’s no other option though.)

  15. Georgina*

    I used to work with a group of sisters who were part of a religion that had a ” your husband (or father) tells you what to do” rule. They ranged in age from 26 to 19 and they all worked at the same big box store I worked at. None of them were married yet, so they all lived at home under the rule of their father. At one point I got into a philosophical conversation with the oldest one, and it ended with her telling me she didn’t think women should have the right to vote. When I asked her why, she said, “You should just sway your husband to vote the way you want to.” And I said, “But wouldn’t it just be easier to go vote yourself?” She couldn’t wrap her head around that thought.

    All this to say, these are legitimate religious convictions held by people who aren’t necessarily being abused (although I myself would call this emotional abuse, but some people are apparently into it). Call in the lawyers because this is very tricky.

    1. Michele*

      My husband is a teacher and has had two sisters who were a year apart. They come from that type of family, and it is so extreme that they say their father’s rules about grammar or interpretation of an assignment override things like style guides or what the teacher says. He has a hard time teaching them because they work really hard and are desperate to please, but they can’t think for themselves and become paralyzed by the tiniest things.

      1. RVA Cat*

        At least they were in school at all. I’d imagine a lot of those Quiverfull etc. type of groups would homeschool. (I can’t help but think about the Duggers and sexual abuse….)

      2. Noobtastic*

        Their father’s rules about grammar may apply if HE is grading the papers, but when the teacher makes an assignment, the teacher’s rules apply.

        And yes, I have had foolish teachers who gave assignments that were against standard grammar rules, and insisted on it. I have also had a few foolish teachers who were flat-out wrong (about history, mainly, but occasionally about science). I learned early that if I wanted to make the grade, I had to please the teacher. If I wanted an actual education, I had to study and search out information, for myself. I became a regular at the library, because I wanted to learn, and yes, sometimes I’d say things on my class papers that I knew were false and absolutely against what I knew to be correct, but other than impressing that particular teacher, they would have no effect on the world at large, so I did it, to please the teacher and get the grade, so that I could go to college, where I hoped to be allowed to think for myself.

        In general, I was allowed to think for myself, and yet, there were a few professors…

        Anyway, the point is, sometimes a student has to choose between the the rules they know and the rules their teacher says. But I have never heard of someone saying that their FATHER’s rules overrides their teacher’s rules and assignments, and that the teacher should grade them according to their father’s interpretation. That is just not going to happen in the real world. That is, not successfully. Those girls are in for a major disappointment.

        1. Candi*

          I know what you mean about history as taught in too many schools.

          In the introduction to one of his history books (published for the general public), Bill Fawcett says he refuses to be an editor for school textbooks. He did that once, marked a whole bunch of stuff on the manuscript wrong -and they didn’t change a thing before publishing. And they kept his name on as a contributor for nine editions. He wasn’t happy.

          (Him and Geoffrey Regan are great history writers.)

          In other news, my son swung back by his old middle school to reconnect with staff and teachers. His old history teacher was in the office.

          …she wouldn’t talk to him. He has a tendency to call out wrong information, and she was really bad at handling unexpected interactions.

    2. Future Homesteader*

      It’s so hard to know where religious belief ends and where abuse begins…members of my extended family are part of a religious tradition that encourages strong male headship. Each marriage looks different under these rules. Some are not very different from my own (in which my spouse and I both consider ourselves feminists). And some, to me, seem awful, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them abusive. Still others *do* look downright abusive (and likely are). But almost all of these women, for what I’m sure is a myriad of reasons, will absolutely tell you that their marriages are as they should be, based on their religion. All under the banner of the same denomination. It’s definitely complicated, to say the least.

      1. Mints*

        It is weird when rhetoric doesn’t match what the marriage is like functionally. Like the rhetoric is “Families should obey the husband/father” but in practice he thinks the wife is smart and they make decisions together. Or on the flip side if they claim to be feminists but decide to have a dom/sub relationship that looks exactly like the most conservative patriarchal marriage.

        I’m not being helpful to OP, I’m just musing on how complicated things are

        1. Emi.*

          “The man is the head of the family. But the wife is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she likes.”

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      It seems to me like the line falls when it crosses from “this is what I personally choose to do” and heads into “this is what all people should do” territory.

      Like, okay! She doesn’t think women ought to vote, and should just talk with their husband about what his vote is going to be? Cool, she can totally do that. Burn her voter registration card if she wants! But she needs to recognize that that’s on her, not on everyone else.

    4. Oryx*

      Also, even if you could “sway your husband to vote the way you want to,” if you’re in agreement on that, two votes are better than one.

    5. Dizzy Steinway*

      But why have one vote between you when you could have two? That’s sad and infuriating on so many levels.

      This is perhaps going off topic but I actually vote on my husband’s behalf. He often travels for work so he registers for a proxy vote and I do it for him as well as my own (he could get a postal vote but worries he’ll forget to send it in).

    6. The OP*

      OP here. We’re in the Bible belt and a lot of people feel the same way (about obeying and even about women voting), in the area and in our office. I don’t want to make her feel like I view her religious choices as inherently abusive, because it’s not an uncommon choice here and maybe she is happy as a clam this way… my former college roommate (now 10 years on or so) is in a similar patriarchal marriage and she honestly loves it. I don’t understand it, but it’s not my life to live.

    7. Candi*

      I remember reading a book about part of the history of women’s right to vote. One of the pre-WWI anti-women’s-vote statements they cited was some dolt of a politician claiming that a woman would vote the same way as her husband, so what was the point of giving them the vote?

      Just ugh, and talk about missing the forest for the trees on so many levels.

      It’s sort of the other side of the coin from what the sisters were taught, I think.

      I think where these cross the line from belief into abuse is when it crosses from treating the wife as someone with her own personality and agency who chooses to defer, to a possession that is owned and must defer, because their will and choices aren’t seen as important.

      Of course, being raised in a home where you never know anything different, to the point where you’re incapable of comprehending other ideas (whether or not you agree with them), is a whole ‘nother ginormous can of worms.

  16. Helen*

    Wait, so she got a promotion/raise but her colleagues are being left to pick up her slack while she keeps the money and higher title? I would be out of there the second I found another job. I feel sorry for all of the people who work with her majesty. It sounds like a horrible place to work.

      1. Helen*

        Respectfully I have to disagree Alison. I know the OP / employer is trying to resolve but in the meantime I would not be feeling great about the work environment if I was being forced to take on extra responsibilities while a colleague got all the perks and the extra. Especially if as someone mentioned above, my boss told me it was unfair but didn’t do anything about it. There are ways for this to be dealt with while any accommodations are figured out without the other workers being treated unfairly.

        1. LBK*

          There are ways for this to be dealt with while any accommodations are figured out without the other workers being treated unfairly.

          Are there, though? If someone needs to be attending these meetings and it’s clear they can’t force this particular employee to do it, I’m not sure what the other ways to deal with it are besides sending one of her coworkers. What did you have in mind?

          I think the OP’s done a fine job navigating an obviously complex situation without seeming overly deferential to religious beliefs but also still being respectful of them and trying to toe the line of what’s a pretty vague legal standard.

          1. Natalie*

            Could you give the covering worker a bonus since they do two meetings instead of one? (Or whatever the difference is.) It doesn’t seem that like that would run afoul of any labor laws but I am not a lawyer or llama.

            1. LBK*

              I think it would make more sense to just adjust the base salary of everyone involved rather than pay it as special bonuses (which would coincide with officially/permanently shifting the responsibilities around, since this employee can’t perform them all).

          2. Helen*

            They need to pay people who are being sent to these meetings or on the travel. I agree that someone needs to be sent but it’s horrible and unfair to do it without paying them for it, while the person whose job it is and who is getting the higher pay doesn’t have to go. Especially since as someone pointed out the boss is admitting that it’s unfair but still sending them without pay anyways.

            1. LBK*

              Gotcha. Agreed that the pay should be adjusted accordingly; I wasn’t considering that element of your comment when I was reading it, I was thinking more like you were saying that the coworkers shouldn’t be made to go to the meetings at all.

            2. Jesmlet*

              Yes, they should be compensated for the portion of her raise that’s attributed to the travel responsibilities and they should be communicating to those employees picking up the slack that they are trying to find a fair solution. Otherwise if I were them, I’d assume that that’s how it would stay forever and that the employer didn’t realize that this is not fair. If they’re not acknowledging the issue, then I would be spending my time looking for another job. This is one of those situations where I feel transparency is necessary.

          3. Caro in the UK*

            OP and her bosses could pay the other coworkers the salary boost that the company gives for regular travel. Or if this really isn’t possible, give them extra PTO, offer flexible working, WFH on days when they don’t have to travel etc. Anything that’s a tangible benefit and shows that the company cares about the impact it’s having on them, beyond just saying that it isn’t fair.

          4. Dizzy Steinway*

            I do think we should remember that fair doesn’t mean the same. I’d be pissed in their shoes, but fairness is the wrong hill to die on here.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This happens with accommodations. Your Catholic coworker can’t work on Sundays so you have to pick up that coverage. Your Jewish coworker can’t travel over Yom Kippur so you have to take that trip. Etc. etc.

          1. Helen*

            But those people would be getting paid for the work they are doing. The people in OP’s are not, she admits it and says it is unfair. The issue isn’t that someone else has to go, it’s that they are not getting paid for it while the person who refuses to go is.

          2. Bee Eye LL*

            But this case is different in that she’s refusing to travel ANYWHERE. That’s just outright refusal to do one’s job, which is why I think she ought to be fired.

              1. Erin*

                It sounds to me like they have tried to accommodate her and it is in fact causing undue hardship to the business at this point.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Undue hardship has a really specific meaning, and based on the letter, it doesn’t sound like OP’s employer has reached it.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                I think OP said travel was absolutely essential to the job, waaay up top some where.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Firing her would be an overreaction. The farthest this could be taken is a demotion. What’s most reasonable is probably an adjustment of responsibilities both for the person picking up the slack in the travel and this employee as well as a slight adjustment to compensation for both. Presumably this employee has other additional responsibilities that came with the promotion that they’re perfectly able to do.

              1. FiveWheels*

                This is interesting to me because here, it’s completely normal for Catholics to work on Sundays. The “never on a Sunday” brigade tend to be fire and brimstone Presbyterians.

              2. Gadfly*

                So unfair! I desperately need the edit function! (Although not enough to be worth moderating this place ;) )

    1. Bee Eye LL*

      I somewhat agree. This employee has now created this issue which is going to take a while to resolve (involving lawyers means lots of time) meanwhile everyone else will have to take up the slack. More travel days for others, etc. I don’t think it’s a horrible place to work, but it’s a horrible situation to be stuck in.

    2. BethRA*

      OP says the woman is not taking on the travel, not that she’s skipping the rest of her responsibilities (and I have to assume there ARE other responsibilities, since occasional travel alone probably wouldn’t come with a promotion and a raise).

      Another way to look at this is that the company has an otherwise solid employee (again, they did see her as worthy of a promotion), and they’re trying to work with her on an unforseen circumstance to figure out a compromise. That might put a few people out in the short term as they work that out, but in the long term those same employees might need some flexibility themselves.

      I’ve had to pick up slack for people with kids, and that’s not always easy, but on the flip side, those same people had to pick of for me when my mother had a health crisis. That is the opposite of a horrible place to work, IMO.

      1. Helen*

        If you were asked to stay late to accommodate someone who had childcare issues but were told they would get paid for the time stayed late, and you wouldn’t, would you not be upset? The issue here is that the employers are sending other people on her travel, and paying her for it instead of them. If they were paying the people it would not be an issue, but they aren’t and by OP’s own admission are getting fed up. It’s not others being sent, it’s that they aren’t getting paid for it.

        1. BethRA*

          As a standing issue? Yes. Short term while they sorted something out? Probably not. Because I wanted my organization to have my back, too.

          1. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

            +1 BethRA – If this is short term and the manager is 1) communicating with those providing coverage, 2) appreciating them for doing it (verbal, with lunch, with a “leave early day”, etc.), and 3) putting this in their mental file for year end reviews, I’d say it’s OK. We all have to do things in our jobs that are not fair or outside our job descriptions, but if it’s either short term or part of a bigger landscape, as the supporting employees, I’d be OK with it. If this was a long-term issue with no resolution date, then I’d think the OP would have to consider alternatives for the supporting employees (more pay, promote one of them, etc.), while they sorted out the promoted employee travel issue.

        2. N.J.*

          This isn’t really that type of situation though. The employee got a promotion to a position with x amount of extra money with x amount of elevated duties. Travel is most likely not the only additional duty. As well, your example assumes that the coworker filling in would do extra work for which they aren’t paid, and that the coworker they are filling in for, like with the childcare example, would be getting paid for work they aren’t doing. Your example would only be problematic if these were hourly or non-exempt workers. In that situation the coworker filling in would be required by law to be paid. In a lot of situations, there are salaried, exempt workers who would just absorb the travel duties and the employee not traveling would still be doing the other 70-80% of her promotion responsibilities. It’s not exactly fair, I would agree, but I don’t see it as any more of an undue hardship than the general business trend to dump more and more work on fewer and fewer employees as companies downsize and streamline. That is to say, it’s no different functionally, in my opinion, in its impact on the employees picking up the slack than all the other things employers do to abuse and overwork their employees in a corporate setting, especially for exempt workers. We all have picked up slack for sick coworkers, slacker coworkers, special projects with no overtime, etc. It just feels extra annoying because presumably, travel is one of the defined responsibilities of this promoted position. It doesn’t mean anyone will get paid extra for picking up that requirement, though I’m sure it would be nice.

          1. JHunz*

            I’m not sure I agree. Travel duties are a special case – if I were told in an interview that my new position was 0% travel and then told once I started that I would be doing quarterly overnight travel, I’d feel extremely misled.

            Picking up slack at work is one thing. Giving up my nights with my family doesn’t fall within the workday, you better be paying me more for it.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        She has 1 local meeting a week and 8-12 overnight trips a year. (I think I am reading this correctly.) This totals up to 60-64 trips a year that she cannot attend. If the three remaining coworkers pick up her slack, that means each coworker will take 20 trips a year in her place.

        That is almost one trip every other week.

        I would not be happy about this if I worked there. I would be really unhappy if I found out that person was paid more than me, also. I’d be job hunting.

    3. Allison*

      “I feel sorry for all of the people who work with her majesty. It sounds like a horrible place to work.”

      Wow. Rude. She didn’t choose to be a “queen,” her husband is calling the shots and she’s been socialized to let him, even if she doesn’t agree with what he wants. She’s just not traveling or attending external meetings, you don’t know how hard she’s working during the day until she has to leave, the promotion may have come with other duties she excels at. That said, I wonder if I would have asked to be demoted back to my old position and let someone else take the promotion that required travel, or tried to work with the manager to rework the position and pay accordingly, and delegate the travel to someone else with an appropriate pay increase, if I was in her shoes. But if her husband has been slowly taking away her sense of power, I wonder if she doesn’t feel empowered to be part of the solution here.

      Also, I doubt she’s keeping the money at the end of the day. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was taking it into a “shared” account he controls.

      1. Jesmlet*

        Yeah let’s not throw daggers at her, it’s pretty clear she has no say in this situation. It’s a crappy situation to be in and I could understand some resentment, but even though he calls her a queen, it’s obvious she gets none of the power and control that usually comes with that title.

        1. Allison*

          Depends on which definition you’re using. If a queen is the monarch of a country, yeah she gets power. But there was a time where a queen was little more than a king’s well dressed, well taken care of brood mare, she was a symbol but wasn’t expected to do much other than birth male heirs.

          1. Jesmlet*

            True, but the implication of Helen calling this employee “her majesty” is that the problem comes from her entitlement, not from her husband’s control. I get that it was probably meant tongue in cheek but still, we shouldn’t be using words that this employee could be interpreting as an insult if they happen to read it.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Thank you. I’m reallly disturbed by the accusatory and harsh language being directed at true employee.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Me too. Also all these suggestions treating the symptoms of the problem and not the problem itself, like putting up curtains so she can’t see when the husband has arrived to pick her up. That won’t solve anything.

    4. The OP*

      OP here. I hope it’s not a horrible place to work!

      This situation is very recent so only one team member has gone on a trip to pick up the slack, and she’s been given extra PTO to make up for it. But once rumor got around about the ability to just decline travel or demand extra money to do it, they started saying they would refuse travel without more compensation, too. So it snowballed into a bigger thing while I was trying to resolve the matter more privately.

      1. Temperance*

        I think the issue here is that this is *not* a rumor, though. Your employee has managed to keep her promotion while declining travel and giving up responsibilities.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This looks like material for presenting an undue hardship case for the company. It’s exactly the stuff you need.

    5. stivee*

      That’s a really harsh stance to take against someone who could be in an abusive relationship, and who has to risk her job to appease her controlling husband and save herself from perceived damnation. While I agree with your other points, I feel sorry for her most of all.

      Look at it this way–a lot of DV victims take inordinate amounts of time off to deal with injury and stress, and other coworkers have to pick up the slack when they aren’t there. That may not be what’s going on here, and I’m not saying it’s fair to the other workers, but I think a little compassion is in order.

  17. animaniactoo*

    Whoof. That’s going to be tough. I don’t envy you. But yeah, I would at the least redistribute the portion of her pay that is “for travel” to the people actually doing the traveling.

    I would also quietly raise the idea with her of whether her religion requires her husband to do certain things for her benefit, in return for her obeying him, and whether he is acting in concert with their religion with some of the commands he is giving to her. Not for her to discuss with you, but as a thought process that she might wish to evaluate for herself.

    I thought of this because of a piece I heard this weekend about divorce law in India where by a specific religion, a man can legally divorce his wife simply by saying a word that means “I divorce you”, and how this leaves women open to domestic abuse because they are under pressure to put up with poor behavior in order for the husband not to leave them, particularly as many do not work and cannot support themselves if they’re out on their own so quickly. Some who have left the home for a period for their own safety end up there and with no place to move on to or back. It’s up for legal consideration whether this is required as a religious practice, but then – a religious scholar of that faith was consulted and he said that this is an abuse of this particular religious practice, that there is supposed to be a period of 3-month reconciliation to try to work out the problems before going ahead and saying the word, and if they do they are supposed to provide financial support for I think it was a specified period of time. That was surprising to me, but I suspect that many of the women who are suffering under this are fully aware that it’s being violated and simply haven’t thought about the idea that they can challenge that portion rather than the right not to go through the civil courts at all. Likewise, your employee may be similarly doing the obeying and not thinking about the fact that her husband may not be fulfilling his requirements towards her under their religion. I think it’s worth taking that tack in leaning *toward* her religion around the possibility of domestic abuse, vs something which may seem like you’re pushing her to violate her religious beliefs.

    [NB: I gave the above example because it was so striking to me, but I’m going to pre-empt that I think that commenting about it could go way off-topic and ask that we be careful not to do that]

    1. Temperance*

      I don’t think that the it’s a good idea for LW to try and put this thought in her employee’s brain. Her focus should be on doing what’s best for the company, and covering her own behind.

      I grew up in a religion that followed Titus 2, where men ruled, basically. They were supposed to make choices for our benefit, but they had the ultimate say. So I wouldn’t even assume that there are things that her husband is supposed to do.

    2. caryatis*

      Arguing with the employee about her religion is a bad idea. Even if it’s done politely, this would look really bad if the company winds up in litigation. If the manager ends up having to deny an accommodation, you want to keep the record clear that the accommodation was denied because of undue hardship, not because of the manager’s personal disagreement with the employee’s beliefs.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I wouldn’t go in that direction. Telling someone what their religious beliefs “really” are or what their practices “really” should be is not going to do anyone any favors — it’s really intrusive and inappropriate.

      I’ve gotten this, as someone with non-mainstream religious beliefs and practices — really often, the minute someone finds out one of the more well-known aspects of my faith, they immediately start trying to convince me that’s not really what God wants.

    4. animaniactoo*

      I think there’s misunderstanding here about what I’m saying – I’m not saying at all that OP should evaluate this, or argue about it, or anything of the sort.

      I’m saying that if the OP is going to express concern on the front of domestic abuse, that leaning *in* to the religion and mentioning that the employee might think for herself about whether he is fulfilling his side of the requirements of their religion in regards to what he is to do for her benefit – without specifying or discussing AT ALL what those requirements are from his side or arguing their value – could be a worthwhile tack. As a one-off note, not an ongoing discussion or any kind of judgment call about the validity of the religion or whether those are actual practices off the religion or supposed to be, etc.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I hear you, but getting into discussions re: religion with employees can go bad very quickly.

        1. animaniactoo*

          I won’t disagree with that, and in particular I defer to Temperance who I know has a lot more experience with this kind of setup than I do. I just wanted to be clear about what I was saying (even if I’m still wrong about it).

          1. Jesmlet*

            I think this might be a worthwhile idea to potentially pursue if OP was a concerned loved one or friend but coming from an employer it would get very sticky. The best you can do is openly present resources if she decides to look into this herself. It’s not OP’s place to lead her there but OP can make sure the directions to get there are easy to find.

      2. caryatis*

        It’s both risky and unlikely to change the employee’s mind. Plus, there’s a decent chance she may believe that she’s required to submit to her husband’s authority even if he does nothing in return.

    5. Geneva*

      I know it’s tempting to question the employee’s religious beliefs, but frankly they’re none of her employer’s business (despite how controversial they may be). I’d stick to confronting the issue strictly from a work perspective.

    6. The OP*

      OP here. Oh man, I would never ask such pointed questions about an employee’s religion to “put the thought in her head” or otherwise. Not really my place as a manager and I would be seriously weirded out if my boss questioned me on the way my marriage functions. It’s not really my job to find out if she feels her husband is holding up his end of their religious bargain…

      1. animaniactoo*

        Just to be clear, I wasn’t advising asking or questioning, but mentioning it something for them to think about. Not asking them to defend it to you, because absolutely that would be way over the line. However, several people have said it’s not a good idea even from a standpoint of showing concern about potential domestic abuse, and that’s fine. I hope that you and she all manage to find something that works you. Best of luck.

  18. Temperance*

    LW, you are in a no-win situation here. If your employee gets to keep her raise and title change without doing the work, you’re disadvantaging your employees who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. That’s unfair, and they’re right to be annoyed that they’re doing her job for her without the recognition. If you push back on the employee or demote her, she sounds like the type who will file a discrimination suit.

    On a side note, if you give in to her demands based on what her husband wants, you’re effectively going to always be stuck making business decisions relating to what this dude demands of his wife. That’s … not okay. The next step is going to be “queens don’t have business meetings with men” or some other BS. I grew up in a religion that believed that men were the head of household and leaders, and … this is extreme, even by Titus 2 standards. I grew up with women who were forced to sign over their paychecks to their husbands, and even they weren’t limited in this manner.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yeah, her husband doesn’t work here and he shouldn’t get to dictate the terms of what she does from 8-5. He’s already decided that she gets to leave early too, apparently.

  19. HRChick*

    Sometimes, accommodations can mean offering a demotion instead of a termination if the sincerely held belief prevents the employee from completing a vital part of their job. That being said, a lawyer is a must in this case, as is good management and documentation.

    For example, when the employee starts getting “antsy”, let her know that she’s being unprofessional. Note the date and time of the feedback as well as the employees’ response.

    Documentation is always a must in situations like this.

    1. Juli G.*

      Yeah, I was going to mention the demotion too. I think the really squirrelly part here is the essential job function part.

      A lawyer and preserving all documents is an absolute necessity here.

    2. A*

      And then unfortunately the company gets to deal with negative PR when the husband and wife start braying on the internet about how Wife got demoted because Religion.

  20. Frozen Ginger*

    OP, I’m curious about the rest of her job. Is the travel the only thing different from her previous position? If so, I agree with your idea of putting her back in her old position.
    But if it’s not, it might be worth reflecting on how she is performing at the other new duties. Do you want her to keep doing those duties (because she does them well)? Then it might be worth adjusting her pay without removing her from her position. If she’s not doing so well with those, then you have a case where she just isn’t a good fit for the role.

    1. BeautifulVoid*

      Yes, if it’s at all possible (and I don’t know if it is, depending on your organization’s structure and what, if anything, was signed at the time of promotion), I’d be trying to find a way where she keeps her new title (and higher status?), but loses a chunk of her raise to compensate her coworkers who now have to travel instead of her. I’m sure there are still all sorts of sticky legal issues, and it’s not as clear-cut as “Do X, get $Y; if you don’t do X, you don’t get $Y, and it will go to the people who do X”, but depending on what your lawyer advises you, it might not be a bad goal.

    2. hbc*

      We basically just went through this with adding a fourth position in a department that is, on paper, very high travel. We had a great internal candidate who just won’t do that aspect. (No religious issues that I know of, but potential controlling SO as well.) I’m not sure whether they decided to have two job descriptions with different pay ranges or just have her at the bottom of the pay range, but she *is* excellent in that position except for the one big gap.

      If the promotion is entirely about the travel, though, it’s pretty hard to justify giving the raise. And missing the local off-sites seems like an even bigger deal to me.

    3. The OP*

      OP here. There are a lot of things that changed with the promotion, not just travel. Travel is just the only thing impacted by this.

      For the other duties, she’s competent but not extraordinary. But she’s also only been doing these new duties for a few months, and we expect a learning curve. If she voluntarily stepped back into her prior role, I would be ok with that, too. She’s worth retaining.

  21. KarenD*

    I had a co-worker with some pretty extensive religious proscriptions, including being alone with members of the opposite sex, not driving and generally, falling under her husband’s control for most decision making. That said, they were both as flexible as possible to make it work (he was, in fact, an adorably kind and gentle young man who clearly loved his wife and their daughter very much) and she would never have knowingly accepted a job she knew the tenets of her religion kept her from fulfilling. In fact, she only stepped into the job she was truly qualified for after my bosses found a way to make it work with all necessary accommodations, and then urged her to accept it.

    The difference here is that the person in the OP has not dealt honorably with her employer. She wants the money and prestige of the promotion but not the duties, and waiting a couple of months after the promotion came through to complain is just breathtakingly dishonest — it looks very much like Mr. Cooper is right, she was going for a windfall.

    I really hope OP fights to reach a reasonable settlement.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I’m not sure that it will help the OP to approach this from the perspective of the employee being dishonest (OP is the manager, not the person seeking accommodations). From a legal perspective, sincerely-held beliefs can change over time and can be awfully difficult to challenge. The OP 100% needs to talk to a lawyer before doing anything that could be seen as an adverse employment decision (i.e. demoting).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed. And nothing indicates that the employee didn’t behave “honorably.” But more importantly, what the employee knew or did not know/disclose has no bearing on the employer’s legal obligations regarding accommodation. Approaching this from the perspective that an employee is sneaky or dishonest is unhelpful and toxic, and has a higher likelihood of encouraging the employer to take action in a way that opens it up to legal liability.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      From the letter, I get the impression that the husband put these new restrictions in place after the promotion, given that the employee was previously able to drive to meetings. She may not have realized what would happen when she took the new position.

      1. Ypsiguy*

        Which seems to me (with the caveat that IANAL) to support the argument that this is not a religious accommodation. In other words, if her religion forbids travel, she would have known that at the time. Did she convert to a new religion? It doesn’t seem that she did.

        So the travel ban is not due to a “sincerely held religious belief,” correct? Her religious belief is simply that she has to follow her husband’s commands? But the workplace doesn’t have to accommodate every reasonable command that the husband thinks up, right? Even if they are “reasonable”? They don’t have to refer to him as her master, for example, and they don’t have to give her three extra PTO days just because her husband demands that she get those days, even if it is a “reasonable accommodation” to give them.

        The dictates of a religion are one thing, the dictates of an employee’s spouse are something else.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          No, this makes no difference with respect to the religious belief there’s more on this upthread, but this is not how the law works.

        2. LBK*

          You’re mixing things up a little – the “reasonable” standard isn’t for the religious belief that’s introduced, it’s for the accommodation that’s requested. As long as she can still perform the essential duties of the job, the business is required by law to try to accommodate any “sincerely held religious belief,” whether they think the belief itself is reasonable or not.

        3. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I think you might be parsing this too fine, but just as a point of correction, it is not necessary for a sincerely held belief to be part of a formal religious doctrine, and it is possible for an individual’s beliefs to change without some sort of conversion event. One’s religious beliefs generally don’t come as a package when you sign up for a religion, after all, they often evolve over time.

      2. Michele*

        I wouldn’t be surprised if the husband felt that his head of the household status was compromised by her success and he was trying to sabotage it or punish her for it.

    3. Jennifer*

      I suspect husband heard this news and freaked out, rather than “she took this knowing he wouldn’t approve so she could get the money.”

      1. Gadfly*

        Or if it really does lean DV, he let her take it so he’d have something to take away from her. That shreds a person’s confidence. Which makes her more vulnerable and always reminds her ‘I can destroy you at work, because you have to do what I say–you may make the money, but only at my whim.”

    4. Mazzy*

      I’ve never heard of a religion banning driving. I’ve known it to be customary in some countries but not directly tied to the religion, as most religions are older than automobiles

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Some people have interpreted their religion to forbid driving (e.g. Amish, some Orthodox Jewish folks, or Saudi Arabia’s interpretation of Islam). So yes, it’s unlikely for scripture to say “don’t drive,” but it’s not an uncommon restriction.

        1. Former Employee*

          I have never heard any Orthodox Jewish people saying that their religion prohibits driving. What the religion does prohibit is driving on the Sabbath and on other specified Holy Days. It’s the same days when they cannot work or do many other activities of a non-religious nature (using the phone, turning lights on and off, etc.).

          Exception: “To save a life”. If someone is injured or otherwise in need of medical attention, you can call 911 or even drive them to the hospital regardless of the holiness of the day.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I could be mistaken—I have female Orthodox Jewish friends who have said their religion forbids them from driving on non-Sabbath days. And I have others (who I suspect are in the majority) who drive and do not believe this is a religious limitation. I just wanted to highlight that sometimes a “religious restriction” comes from a person’s interpretation of their faith and their faith practice, that those interpretations are not limited to one faith group, and that driving restrictions are not wholly unheard of, even if they are rare or in the minority.

      2. namelesscommentater*

        I read it as one of her religious beliefs is to be obedient to her husband, and he has decided he doesn’t want her driving. Not that her religion is anti-driving at face value.

    5. The OP*

      OP here. I don’t think she was dishonest. I think the rules of her relationship changed.

      She previously did some travel in her old role, but she wasn’t married yet and it was occasional. Now she’s married and the travel quota increased (from one overnight semiannually to monthly)… and she also now feels beholden to obey her husband.

      The belief isn’t that she can’t travel, the belief is that she has to obey her husband no matter what. And that’s the part that changed after her promotion.

  22. the other Emily*

    I feel bad for the OP. Caught between a rock and a hard place between being afraid of being accessed of religious discrimination or continuing to allow a toxic environment with the other employees to get even worse than it already is. Not a fun place to be in at all.

  23. LawCat*

    Whether the travel is an essential function is key, I think. The frequency of the travel may be a factor. The purpose of the travel is another. Like if a key part of Promoted Role is to represent the employer at trade shows or conferences and she refuses to travel to the events, that makes travel more essential than, say, an internal meeting where people can be teleconferenced or videoconferenced in.

    A demotion may be a reasonable accommodation. At the same time, if there is no position available, you may be able to let her go if the travel is essential. Definitely an active mine field. A local attorney specializing in employment law should be able to assist with identifying essential functions, navigating the interactive process, and identifying whether there is an accommodation that is reasonable.

    1. INFJ*

      Right. Even if the travel is only 1 day a month, which seems insignificant without context, if a decent amount of the “non travel” working time is spent preparing for the travel event, then I can see that being considered more essential to the position.

    2. Professor Marvel*

      Right, the importance of the travel is a major consideration. I have to attend meetings four times a year. It’s infrequent, but if I don’t attend these meetings my non-profit doesn’t receive key funding.

      I think lawyer #2 touched on a pivotal issue: “Accommodating the employee’s self-imposed travel ban is one thing, but paying her for work that she refuses to perform is quite another.”

      If the work she refuses to perform is essential to the organization she should not be compensated for that portion of the job.

  24. Chickaletta*

    To me, this sounds more like a cultural issue than a religious one. Patriarchal tendencies are often more closely associated with specific cultures than with specific religions, even if one religion dominates a majority of that culture.

    Get a lawyer involved, however. This is a hot mess.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That’s kind of offensive and is also wrong. Patriarchy is pretty equal opportunity across all communities and demographic populations in the U.S.

      1. Chickaletta*

        Offensive and wrong? What did I say? By definition, patriarchy isn’t equal opportunity. The US is also highly matriarchal.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Really? In what alternate universe is the US highly matriarchal?

          From Wikipedia: Matriarchy is a social system in which females hold primary power, predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property at the specific exclusion of men, at least to a large degree.

          From UN Women: Only 22.8 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995.


        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          You implied this is “cultural” and not “religious,” which is a bit of a false dichotomy—for many religious groups, cultural and religious practices are linked or self-reinforcing. Also, I don’t think you meant to do this because I know you to be a really thoughtful and careful commenter, but that framing is often used as a dog whistle to denigrate or pathologize religious minorities (particularly religions seen as having primarily “non-white” followers).

    2. Sylvia*

      Some religions and some denominations within otherwise egalitarian religions strongly support patriarchal relationships. Look into “complementarianism” for one take on it, if you’re interested.

    3. The OP*

      OP here. It’s just splitting hairs to ask if it’s culture or religion. We’re in the Bible Belt of America. The employee is Southern Baptist. Is this is southern expectation or a Baptist expectation? It’s a chicken and egg situation. But the origin of the belief is not super relevant to dealing with it.

      1. Sylvia*

        I’m Southern and this is definitely out of step with our culture!

        Can’t speak for Southern Baptists very well, as I’m not one (just grew up with them), but the Southern Baptist Church has a complementarian view on gender. I’ve never seen anything like this, though.

        Anyway, you’re right. She’s claiming it as her religious belief and that’s what’s relevant.

        1. Temperance*

          I’m former Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the Southern Baptists were liberal in comparison. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen something like this, although this extent is bizarre.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            You’re former CMA? That’s where I am now, and in my experience, this is wildly out of character, and Southern Baptists were much more conservative. Although I’ve heard it varies regionally, and I’m out west.

            And the joke I make (made first by my spouse): I obey my husband: he told me to do whatever I want, and I do.

      2. Jessen*

        Southern Baptist churches are pretty individualistic too. Most practice some form of complimentarianism, but what that looks like is likely to vary pretty strongly by the individual church.

      3. Old Admin*

        A friend of mine was a Southern Baptist and married… and yes, I witnessed a number of similar shenanigans in the marriage.
        Result was she could not take it anymore and got divorced after 12 years.

    1. Decimus*

      Queen Elizabeth doesn’t just drive. She can fix cars. She’s been trained in auto repair. Back when Leno was on tv, I always wanted to see him have her as a guest so they could discuss automobiles.

      As far as this specific case, though, it will require a lawyer (sadly) because it really depends on the precise nature of the role. If it’s “we need you to meet with the client at X location four times a year” that might be something someone else can do. If it’s “we need a CPA to audit our branch office four times a year” that might be something that the only CPA on staff has to do. And it could be anywhere in between.

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      Not only that, Queen Elizabeth was an auto mechanic in WWII and therefore not only can/does drive, but can fix the car when it breaks down.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          Yes – HRM was a Princess at the time of WW2, and actually enlisted in the military. A little known fact = Britain had conscription for women age 20-30 during WW2.

          And – in 2009 – the Palace was furious because she was not invited to the 65th D-Day commemoration in France. She is the last living head of state who also served in WW2.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s true! She’s kind of a badass and was apparently car-crazy (maybe still is?).

    3. Paea*

      I found something about the OP including this really inappropriate — like the worker couldn’t possibly have actual religious reasons because of this (and I CAN’T STAND seeing so many people on the board reverting immediately to this here too, I mean I cannot tell you how much I didn’t want to open this thread, it seemed stacked immediately against taking anything the employee might be saying seriously, and that is in fact how the whole top of the thread reads).

      1. LBK*

        I’m actually not seeing many comments that don’t believe the employee or take her seriously; I wonder if you’re projecting your assumptions about how people view religious beliefs onto the comments. I also think the OP mentioned that as another example of directives the employee has received from her husband that have complicated her ability to do her job; it’s pertinent information insofar as how much she can require the employee to do and where the boundaries of religious accommodation end.

      2. Chickaletta*

        I think that the OP and everyone else IS actually taking the employee very seriously. That is why the bottom line advice has been to consult a lawyer so that the OP can figure out how to accommodate the employee and still manage the department from an employer’s perspective.

      3. Temperance*

        I actually think that people were fair and open-minded, but I also do see that piece about “queens” not driving important to show the dynamic at play. I see nothing at all, by anyone, suggesting that the woman shouldn’t be taken seriously.

        The employee agreed to take a promotion, and then walked back doing any of the work required by the promotion. Now her colleagues are required to do this work for her, when they didn’t receive the extra pay and title change. That’s unfair.

        1. Natalie*

          walked back doing any of the work required by the promotion

          The letter doesn’t say she’s refusing to do any of the work required by the promotion, just the travel.

          1. Temperance*

            What I took from the letter was that the travel, both locally and overnight, was a key part of the promotion, and now others, who were passed over for the promotion, are picking up her slack. That’s not fair.

            1. Natalie*

              I mean, maybe, but if the travel is in fact 100% of the difference between Job A and Job B, then it’s much more likely to meet the essential function test. It seems just as plausible that there are many aspects of this promotion, and travel is but one of them.

              I totally agree that the other employees who are doing her travel should be compensated somehow, or duties redistributed so that they are roughly equitable between all the people of the same level.

      4. LN*

        The OP is just reporting on what the employee herself presumably said – and it’s worth noting here that the employee doesn’t actually seem to have “actual religious reasons” for not driving; instead, she has a sincere religious belief that she must do whatever her husband says. And I don’t think it gets more “taking it seriously” than the vast majority of reactions here: consult a lawyer, and consider how far reasonable accommodations can go in this situation. I have not seen anyone assume she’s being insincere or suggest she needs to ignore her belief and do her job.

      5. The OP*

        OP here. I hope I didn’t come across as offensive and I don’t doubt that is really her belief. I was trying to show the dynamic here. That the employee is not telling me about this restriction in a worried way like her husband is being unreasonable, but instead that her household sees these restrictions as gifts to women. She doesn’t see it as controlling, she believes her husband has greater wisdom as the family patriarch and that he is trying to improve her life. She feels honored that he cares so much.

        1. JanetInSC*

          Thanks for sharing this, OP.
          The wife might not feel so honored if she ends up losing her job, or at least the promotion.
          I also wanted to commend you for offering comp time to those who were picking up her travel duties.
          Unfortunately, you are probably going to need a lawyer, but at the least, document everything.
          Please keep us updated!

    4. Brit*

      Queen Elizabeth insisted on driving the King of Saudi Arabia around in her land rover.

      She never made an official comment against Saudi Arabia preventing women from driving – that would break her rules about political nuetrality.

      No, she just politely and generously insisted on driving him herself during an official visit to Britain.

      God, I love that woman.

      1. Batshua*

        Yeah, that was damn ballsy, and while I generally don’t care about royalty, I do have a fair bit of admiration for Queen Elizabeth.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        She’s kind of the queen of the effortlessly polite shade-throwing game.

      3. Old Admin*

        “Queen Elizabeth insisted on driving the King of Saudi Arabia around in her land rover.
        She never made an official comment against Saudi Arabia preventing women from driving – that would break her rules about political nuetrality.
        No, she just politely and generously insisted on driving him herself during an official visit to Britain. ”

        Oooohhhh the buuuuurrrrrrnnnnn.
        *That* is a wonderful unspoken comment on inequality!!!
        The shade of it all. :-D

  25. HisGirlFriday*

    OP, if her ability to see her husband makes her ‘antsy’ until she is released, is there a way you can prevent her from seeing him? Can you move her office, or require him to park somewhere else?

    I realize that doesn’t solve your much larger problems, but it’s at least a short-term fix for one part of the problem.

    I second all PPs who have said you need to (a) document the unprofessionalism; (b) consider a demotion and reduction in pay for the employee and (c) consider altering the job description to include things like the ability to travel off-site. I don’t know about anyone else, but my job description changes every year after my annual review — both to include things that are new (grant writing) and to remove things that have been handed off to someone else in the office.

    1. LBK*

      Re: the impatience to leave when her husband is outside, I don’t think they need to do anything special to fix that. She just needs to cut it out. There doesn’t seem to be any religious element there, so it’s not as fraught – that’s just straight up bad behavior that can be performance managed normally, same as any other reason someone might be mentally checking out before the work day is done.

      1. KellyK*

        If she’s behaving badly, sure, she needs to cut it out. But that kind of depends on what the OP means by antsy. “Being visibly nervous or stressed out” isn’t bad behavior in the same way “looking at the clock or out the window every 30 seconds and literally running out the door” is. Also if it’s a DV situation where the fact that he’s there waiting, probably getting angry, means she’s at risk, it’s not that simple. Why not tell her that focusing on her work until quitting time is the expectation, but, if you have the ability to move her, suggest that to her as well?

        1. LBK*

          I just don’t really understand the impulse to work around an employee’s performance problem rather than just managing it. It’s like moving a student’s seat in class to get them to stop chatting with their best friend; situations aren’t usually managed like that in the working world because we expect people to be adults who can correct their own behavior.

          If it is a DV situation, I’m not sure moving her would make a difference anyway.

          1. Dizzy Steinway*

            I see your point but you cannot seriously expect to just performance manage fear and anxiety and have it all squared away nice and simply.

            1. LBK*

              I’m not expecting to performance manage fear and anxiety, I’m expecting to lay out a performance expectation like I would with any other behavioral issue, and if it doesn’t work for whatever reason, that can be addressed at the time. I don’t see what’s stopping the OP from at least laying out the expectation; she also can’t managed based on assumptions about the employee’s home life.

          2. KellyK*

            Being an adult who can correct their own behavior doesn’t mean being able to shut off any and all emotional reactions, though. Defining any antsy-ness when her husband shows up as a “performance problem” despite red flags that he’s definitely controlling and may be abusive seems needlessly punitive toward the employee. (I know people who follow patriarchal religious beliefs might take issue with my defining his behavior as controlling, but that’s literally what the word means; if she has to obey him, he has control.)

  26. JoAnna*

    Sounds like religion is the excuse and not the reason in this case, but proving that would be dicey.

    I think Bob Cooper’s response is spot on. She shouldn’t be paid for duties she doesn’t perform.

  27. The IT Manager*

    She can no longer attend external meetings alone because she doesn’t have transportation, which has created problems already (she was going weekly to external meetings maybe 10 miles away), but technically her job description doesn’t say she needs her own car so my boss thinks we can’t enforce that.

    I’d fight this too. It may not be written that she needs a car, but she doesn’t need a car! She just needs to get herself to the external meeting. And it’s not like this external meeting requirement was sprung on her.* She has complied with this requirement for however many years she has already worked there. If she can’t drive, but her transportation solution is her husband drives her then so be it. A taxi, Uber, or Lyft is also an option. I’d hesitate to rely on bus or other public transportation because that’s could be difficult and long process in many cities and you don’t want that to come out of your work time.

    * This would be different for a new employee at a new job, but in this case this job function requiring cross-town travel is not a surprise. It is your employee’s situation that has changed and not the job requirements.

    1. LBK*

      And even if it were a new requirement, it doesn’t matter. Assuming her religion doesn’t say “no attending meetings outside of your normal office,” they can change the job duties at any time and expect her to comply with them. It’s not their problem to figure out how she should get there if she can’t drive herself, just like it wouldn’t be their problem if she’d never had a car in the first place.

      1. CAA*

        The employer should reimburse the employee for the expense of getting to the other meeting though. It’s an expense of doing business, and they can pay the IRS mileage rate for using her own car or they can reimburse her taxi/uber/lyft fare.

        1. LBK*

          Eh, if the office is only 10 miles away and it’s common for employees to have to occasionally go there instead of to their main office, I’m not sure that qualifies as work travel in excess of a normal commute, either for IRS or just general moral obligation purposes.

        2. Not A Morning Person*

          My employer requires travel but doesn’t dictate how we get to our appointments. I have a seeing-impaired colleague. He hires a driver (or his spouse is sometimes his driver) to take him to appointments. He gets to expense the IRS mileage. So if it’s the lack of a car that is preventing her from getting to the in-town meetings, that’s not something the employer needs to require, just require the in-person participation and let the employee figure out how to get there. The employee understands that meetings across town are a requirement; she has responsibility to get herself to the meetings, regardless of how she gets there, taxi, bike, Uber, bus, etc. She’s not leaving town and it’s not overnight, perhaps that’s an expectation you can set. You can’t require the car but you can require in-person attendance at the meetings. It’s on her to figure out how to get there. Still, IANAL, so talk to one!

    2. Chickaletta*

      Exactly. She doesn’t need a *car*, but she does need to be physically present at work. Just because those meetings aren’t in her regular office doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have to be there. There are many, many jobs where employees are required to be at off-site places and just because they can’t find transportation doesn’t mean that they should be excused from that duty. It’s her responsibility to figure out how to get to work, period.

    3. Jennifer*

      I wonder if husband works. Or if he’d freak out if she was in a car driven by other men.

  28. Gene*

    She can no longer attend external meetings alone because she doesn’t have transportation, which has created problems already (she was going weekly to external meetings maybe 10 miles away), but technically her job description doesn’t say she needs her own car so my boss thinks we can’t enforce that.

    Maybe not, but you can require that she attend these meetings and find her own way there. How she gets there isn’t your problem; public transit, cab, Uber, husband drives her, bicycle, oxcart. She either finds a way to the meetings or she can’t do the job.

    1. Michele*

      That is a good point. The job requirement is not that she drive herself to the meetings, it is that she attend the meetings. It is no different than if I ride my bike because my car is in the shop.

    2. Lora*

      Yes, this. If attending the weekly meeting is part of the job, it doesn’t matter if her husband drives her or if she sprouts wings and flies. There’s one car in my household which I share with my elderly mother in case she urgently needs to go to Wegmans (don’t ask), so I mostly get the train to work, and if I have to go somewhere the train doesn’t go, Uber or carpool. Sometimes it’s close enough to walk/bike. She has to figure it out.

    3. BethRA*

      I’m actually curious what the lawyers would have to say about the job description piece. We all perform lots of tasks that aren’t explicitly spelled out in our job descriptions, so would the lack of that level of detail really prevent an employer from enforcing meeting attendance or the like?

    4. Not A Morning Person*

      Yes! (I didn’t read all the way down, but this is the same thing I was thinking and commented on.)

    1. Robin Gottlieb*

      Exactly! If it were due to religion, the husband would have never allowed his wife to have a car in the first place, as opposed to his recently taking her car away.

    2. Allison*

      Probably because she got a promotion, and he didn’t want it going to her head, so he’s been looking for ways to keep her beneath him.

  29. Natalie*

    Queens don’t drive

    Uh oh, no one tell Queen Elizabeth and her enormous collection of vintage & rare cars!

  30. Observer*

    I haven’t read the comments yet, but one thing neither lawyer addressed is the issue of the outside meetings. These seem to be happening often enough that you are probably on much firmer ground in calling that an essential task that she needs to do as part of the job.

    And, yes, pass on a domestic violence referral – one that deals with religious communities. What you are describing is VERY concerning.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      And I would consider that just because a meeting isn’t frequent doesn’t mean it’s not essential.

      1. Observer*

        Sure. It’s just that it’s a bit more tricky and would need more documentation. This level of frequency kicks things up a notch.

    2. brightstar*

      I was going to say that if she can no longer attend weekly meetings, that may make it her not being able to perform vital parts of the job.

      I grew up in a religion that said men were head of the household, yada yada, but as far as I know, no one took it that far. It seems a bit duplicitous to me that she took the promotion and soon thereafter these religious obligations changed. It’s probably not, and just that the husband is a controlling jerk hiding behind religion. But the optics aren’t great.

      I wish the OP luck in dealing with this sticky situation.

      1. suspect class*

        The visuals here may be intentionally bad–sounds to me like husband is trying to sabotage her work outside the home. As someone noted above, likely also wants her income so she’s in a no-win situation.

    1. Mints*

      Oof I forgot about that one; I just went back to reread. It was so sad to see her follow up comments

    2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      I thought of that one too and the boyfriend who emailed the boss about drinks with the employee who was his girlfriend (or something like that)

      I don’t care what you do in your personal life, but when your relationship affects my business we have problems.

      I am curious how this even falls under religious accommodation actually. No one is saying she can’t believe her husband makes the rules AT HOME but he cannot and should not have power over business activities, IMO. He can make all their home decisions, but once he “allows” (yuck that makes me cringe) her to have employment, he no longer gets a say. He is removed from that aspect because he is not the head of the business as he is the house.

      It seems to me she needs a different job (and IMO a different husband, but hey, to each their own I guess)

      1. Allison*

        While I agree people shouldn’t have power over their spouses’ business activities, travel seems to be an exception, in some cases anyway. I could see a reasonable person wanting to at least be consulted before their spouse takes a job or promotion that involves travel where they weren’t traveling before, if only so they’re on the same page about childcare/pet care/housework/car arrangements. That said, most reasonable people wouldn’t object to a monthly overnight trip, unless they either felt the need to control their spouse, or they were so emotionally dependent on their spouse than even a night without them each month would be hard.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Sure, but that consultation should be between the employee and their partner. The employer doesn’t really even need to know it’s happening. In an ideal world and relationship, the couple would have discussed the impact of the new job before she accepted it or even applied.

  31. Erin*

    Not being a lawyer or playing one on TV, I think it boils down to the fact that she knew this was a part of her job when she accepted the new role and is now backing out.

    Did her religious beliefs change during that time? I find it hard to believe the law would protect the religious beliefs changing at a whim. Unless possibly she actually converted to a different religion during this time, but it doesn’t sounds like that’s the case.

    I would lean towards returning her to her former role and rescinding the raise. You need someone in this position to perform certain duties and that isn’t happening, period.

    1. Natalie*

      Also not a lawyer, but I don’t think the first point matters in the eyes of the law. People’s beliefs can change and the law protects that, so the employer doesn’t have an protection here on that basis.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Correct – the fact that she didn’t ask for the accommodation earlier does not mean she can’t get it now. Religious beliefs change, and don’t have to be based on church doctrine.

        1. Erin*

          I think the more important point is that this is a function of the job and she can’t perform that.

          If you hired someone to work in a warehouse where the job function is to physically put a product together, and then you find out they have severe arthritis and can’t perform the job, are you supposed to accommodate them because of their medical issue?

          I guess it comes down to how important of a function this is for the job, since it’s only once a month or less. But if she accepted the promotion with the understanding travel would now be involved, and she got a raise to accommodate this travel, I’d take that to mean it’s a pretty big function of the job.

          They need the person in this position to travel. She can’t travel. She shouldn’t be in the position, in my opinion, regardless of the reasons she can’t travel.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq*

            Well, now you’re talking ADA issues, and that’s a different law and test (if similar in places). Again, we’re talking about First Amendment accommodation here, not discrimination law. If the employee was an airline pilot and said they can no longer travel for religious purposes, that would be an undue hardship to accommodate. What matters is, as you say, how important it is for this position that they travel.

            There’s a lot of focus on the idea that, since she agreed to do this a few months ago, she should be held to that or fired. That’s just not how the law works.

      2. Erin*

        That’s probably (definitely) technically true, but…she accepted a promotion and a raise with the understanding that she’d need to travel. Then suddenly traveling is not allowed for religious reasons. I think if a court of law was looking at this they’d be able to look past the technicalities here and let reason and common sense step in.

        If the argument is that obeying her husband is a part of her religion and her entire religion depends on his whim…then he could suddenly decide she can’t use computers, or phones, and where would it end? That just doesn’t seem reasonable either. I’d hope the law would acknowledge that.

        1. Natalie*

          There are some posts upthread explaining in more detail, but generally you have to show a real, concrete hardship associated with the specific accommodation that’s being requested. You can’t refuse to make an accommodation on hypothetical hardships like “what if your religious beliefs change”.

          And these aren’t “technicalities”. They’re fundamental parts of the law.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq*

          The law is all about technicalities! In this case, the way the law accommodates the needs of employers is by requiring accommodations only where it does not cause an “undue hardship”. So in a nutshell, how inconvenient is it for the employer to excuse her from this single requirement? (If it’s only a handful of times a year, maybe not all that inconvenient). If, in the future, she asked for an accommodation not to use phones or computers, then the same question applies: it is an undue hardship to excuse her from all computer and phone use? (probably!) Anticipating future needs is not part of the equation.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This isn’t really how courts work, though. Law is all about technicalities! The issue isn’t “she knew she had to do X and now she says she can’t because her husband made up new rules.” Instead, after noting the employee holds this belief, an employer asks “how do we accommodate it, and is that accommodation excessively burdensome on the company’s operations?” That doesn’t mean OP can’t do anything, but it does mean that you can’t start with firing or demotion as the first step. You have to evaluate all the options before coming up with a resolution.

    2. The IT Manager*

      #1 People’s sincerely held religions beliefs can change.

      BUT …

      Her belief (women must obey their husbands) did not change. Her husband’s restrictions on her is what has changed. And this has potential to be a slippery slope that does not necessarily need to be accommodated by the company because they don’t have to accommodate her husband’s rules.

      1. KellyK*

        Right, but they don’t get to not accommodate on the basis that it might *become* a slippery slope. It’s only if her husband decrees that she’s not allowed to use phones or must work a four-hour day or whatever that they then can’t accommodate that specific request.

  32. Michelle P*

    Wow, this is a tough one OP. I can only second Alison and commenters that say you should consult a lawyer. I also get a bit of a DV vibe from this letter.

    I have worked with some very devout people and have never seen this level of control. He took her car away and gave her a BS reason. Now he doesn’t want her to travel. She gets antsy when he arrives early to pick her up. That doesn’t seem normal. It seems he wants to have total control of her life. Kind of like Carlos and Vanessa from Madea’s Family Reunion.

    If she is not performing all the functions of the job, a demotion or decrease in pay seems fair. If a lawyer says the religious accommodation has to be worked around I guess you have to, but I would maybe check-in occasionally and if other signs of DV are present offer the EAP (if your company has one) or info on a shelter or programs in the areas that could help her.

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      I also get a bit of a DV vibe from this letter. I have worked with some very devout people and have never seen this level of control.

      I keep thinking about this because it feels like I never personally see a Husband Is In Charge marriage where it’s not blatantly unhealthy, and I suspect it’s because when such an arrangement actually works, it has zero impact on the people around them and ends up flying under the radar. I’ll concede that healthy, balanced versions exist, but they’re so low-key that when I do hear about a wife following a husband’s orders, warning bells immediately start clanging.

      1. paul*

        It’s like non-awkward home schoolers; they’re the ones you *don’t* notice so the weird ones shape your perception

          1. Not A Morning Person*

            That would sell! My best friend home-schooled her kids. The oldest is an M.D. now.

      2. Allypopx*

        Healthy ones usually don’t use words like “orders” or “commands” but I have seen healthy versions of this setup, though they still make me uncomfortable – probably because I associate them with the less healthy versions.

      3. LN*

        Yeah, these relationships can work when the person in charge actually has their SO’s best interests at heart, and isn’t actively trying to sabotage them. Buuuuut that doesn’t seem to be the case here. I know we’re not here to judge the employee’s husband, but reasonable people in healthy relationships don’t forbid their SOs to do important job duties and take away their transportation. If he doesn’t want her to work anymore, they need to talk it out and come to an agreement, and she can either resign or step down to a position with less responsibility and travel. What he’s doing now is underhanded and shitty. He knows it’s going to have a negative effect on her, her reputation, and her co-workers – he just doesn’t seem to care.

        1. Gadfly*

          I don’t think even best interests keeps the unhealthy away. Makes it functional enough to be none of my business. But I just can’t think of any relationship where one person is deemed to be responsible for the best interests of the other as per their judgement and the other one just is required to go along with it based on if they were born an innie or an outie. Or any other arbitrary difference–number of freckles, height, net annual pay, etc. And I know the whole point is they don’t think it is arbitrary, but that is the part I think really makes it unsalvageable for me as anything I can look at and call healthy versus eh, not a total dumpster fire. Even as I respect people’s choices to do unhealthy things if that is their choice.

      4. Liane*

        “…when such an arrangement actually works, it has zero impact on the people around them and ends up flying under the radar.” This!
        Remember the question where the Coworker wanted everyone at work to refer to her Dom partner as [Coworker]’s Master rather than [Coworker]’s partner/BF or his name? A number of times it was pointed out that you didn’t insist others take part in your *private* relationship by doing things like that. I think “I have to obey my husband” religious beliefs should follow the same rule. If a wife & husband are fine with him making all the decisions, I am glad it works for them. BUT, when he decides she can’t do Job Thing–SHE owns it at work. “I am really glad for this Job Opportunity but came to realize that I cannot take it because of the travel obligation. My religion forbids working any time in a place where summer heat index hits 3 digits.”

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Man, I wish my religion told me not to work when the heat index hits triple digits! That’s when I want to just go spend the entire day melting in my apartment pool!

  33. AndersonDarling*

    I wonder if the employee understands how serious her non-travel request is. If I asked for an accommodation and I found out that my employer had to call in the attorneys and spend $$$ reviewing the legality of my request, I’d be mortified. Not to say that shouldn’t be the process in such a situation, but if I put in the request because my spouse told me to, then there is another layer to the understanding. Does the husband understand the severity of the request?
    As a manager, I may talk to the employee at this stage and let her know that I don’t know how to proceed and I’ve referred the request to the attorneys and executive leadership. It’s possible the employee may be willing to work out an accommodation (demotion to previous position) right away. But it’s possible the employee would lawyer up as well.
    Ugh! It’s such a precarious situation!

    1. Sabrina the Teenage Witch*

      I’m sure the husband doesn’t care about the severity of the request because his word is supreme, not the employer’s.

    2. KellyK*

      If I asked for an accommodation and I found out that my employer had to call in the attorneys and spend $$$ reviewing the legality of my request, I’d be mortified.

      That’s really a cost of doing business, though. Any time anyone requests an accommodation, whether for religion, for a disability, or for something else, the company might feel the need to call the lawyers in. The employee didn’t make the law, nor do they have any control over their employer’s knowledge of the law, their risk tolerance, or any other factors that determine when they decide to work with a lawyer.

      1. HisGirlFriday*

        ^^ This. My workplace consulted with our attorneys regarding my need for a flexible work schedule related to PPD/PPA. I don’t feel the least bit guilty that my boss/company had to bear that cost. That’s a normal cost of doing business, IMHO.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about the company having to pay for its lawyers to evaluate these issues as part of a company’s compliance efforts. That’s what lawyers are for, and it’s a normal part of doing business in the same way that calling your lawyer to review a contract is part of doing business. The employee definitely should not feel guilty that the employer may need to ask its lawyers to do their jobs.

  34. Bee Eye LL*

    I have heard of companies not being allowed to ban beards because of religious preferences, but that’s just making exceptions to company policy. In this case, the woman is saying she cannot perform her job duties. To me, that’s different. In that case, it seems more like she is refusing to do her job. It’s not a company policy issue like dress code or something along those lines, so fire her.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      It all depends on if it creates an undue hardship for the employer to excuse her from traveling. If it’s only once a quarter, that might not be the case. Presumably her job involves doing other things the rest of the time. It doesn’t matter that the accommodation has to do with a job duty vs. company policy.

      1. Sarah*

        It’s not just once a quarter, though. It’s also WEEKLY meetings across town that she’s refusing to do now too because of not wanting to drive. That’s both a huge chunk of her job she’s missing and a large burden to other employees as well to have to do weekly off-site meetings that they aren’t fully compensated for.

    2. Michele*

      There is a world of room between doing nothing and firing someone. Most people are willing to work on a compromise of some sort, even if it a demotion. It is also very bad for morale if employees see that they can be fired too easily. It sends the good, stable employees running for other jobs.

      1. Bee Eye LL*

        I work in a “right to work” state which means we can be fire at any time for any reason. Just over have the states operate this way. If this sort of thing popped up at my work, I don’t think this lady would last very long.

        1. LQ*

          That’s not what right to work means, and you can be fired for any reason, but if that reason is discrimination that isn’t legal. If there was a clear and unrelated reason to fire her (it wasn’t because of her religious beliefs) then yes. But in all states it’s not legal to fire someone because of their religion. (mostly)

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think you might be mixing up “at will” and “right to work.” The phrase “right to work” usually refers to governmental efforts to promote the right not to join a labor union, often by making it burdensome for a union to reach/recruit new hires, by limiting payroll dues collection, and by adopting positions that seek to decrease unions’ political power.

          1. Candi*

            Some unions need their power decreased. For instance, the longshoremen’s and teachers’ unions in this state are horrifically corrupt. If the union members are below a certain level, they get stepped on by the administration and the union. And campaigning for a change in leadership has had no effect.

            The library and transit unions, on the other hand, are headed by pretty decent folks that go to bat for anyone.

            There’s also that some of the first right to work laws were passed where people could not get jobs in their chosen careers (teachers and machine shops) because they were being locked out by the resident unions for refusing to join. That’s not ethical behavior by any stretch. (I remember the news stories about What A Big Deal it was for… people to want to make a living.)

        3. Michele*

          Just because something is done doesn’t mean that it should be done. Saying that you are treated ruthlessly and without compassion is a horrible justification for other people being treated that way.
          I also work in an “at will” state, but I know that firing people, especially skilled people that take a long time to train, willy-nilly is not only mean, it is bad for morale and will chase off good employees.

  35. MuseumChick*


    Echoing everyone say “Get a Lawyer”. Until you do and figure out what to do about the travel focus on the other performance issues. “Jane, I’ve noticed that when you husband comes to pick you up you seem to lose focus. I need your full attention on work matters until the day is over.”

    That being said….this sounds like it could be a DV situation. If not physically then emotionally/mentally. I would keep a log of the behavior your noticing. Note if/when he takes other “rights” away from her, if he starts showing up to check on her, excessive calling etc. Ugh, what a terrible situation.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        I totally misread that, sorry!

        I wonder if she could attend the meetings via teleconference instead?

      2. JuniorMinion*

        I’m late but wanted to chime in that the OP updated us above that the employee in question also can’t attend weekly meetings with key accounts where she would be expected to attend them alone… so its a bit more than just those overnights she is missing

    1. ArtK*

      Two different issues. One is travel to some remote location that is quarterly, or possibly monthly, and is overnight. Then there are local offsite meetings that appear to happen more often. Since she’s not allowed to drive, she can’t attend those meetings alone — meaning that some peer will have to pick up the slack.

      I agree with others that this is a much more clear job requirement than the occasional overnight.

      1. Natalie*

        Although as pointed out above, she doesn’t have to drive to get to those off-site meetings, so they can certainly require her to be there and leave the transportation up to her.

      2. paul*

        And, a job thing can be a regular but not too frequent bona fide job requirement.

        I have to put together some end of eyar reports. That’s once a year, but it’s definitely a legitimate part of my job.

        1. Sarah*

          Exactly. I’m a professor who has to submit final grades for my students, I can’t just skip that even though it only happens 2 times per year. :)

  36. Jeanne*

    The important part to me is that just because an employee says they deserve an accomodation doesn’t mean they get one. You don’t have to let her have the new title and the raise and say she can’t travel or attend meetings. Consult a lawyer and determine what will work best. In the meantime, you need to reassure the other employees who are picking up the slack that you are working on it. You don’t want to lose them over this. This accomodation could cost your company a lot of money if you have to replace 3 or 4 good employees.

  37. Dazed and Confused*

    Regardless of the legal ramifications of this, why would someone take a job with essential duties they cannot perform? There was a story a few years ago about a Muslim who was a cashier. He refused to scan pork products at the register. Well if you know the store sells pork products and your job as a cashier is to scan them why would you take the job if it’s against your religion? There’s a difference between a sincerely held religious belief and just using religion as an excuse to get out of your less preferred job duties.

    1. Leatherwings*

      This seems really unfair to me. I agree with the first employment lawyer who said that this is less likely to be a sincerely held religious belief, but the example of the cashier seems perfectly legitimate to me.

      The job isn’t against his religion, handling pork is. Not handling pork is the definition of a reasonable accommodation.

      1. Observer*

        Actually, not necessarily. If there are regular situations where there is only one cashier on duty, having a cashier who can’t check out all of the products the store sells becomes a major problem.

        1. Allypopx*

          Mhm. I think that can easily be read as an undue hardship to the employer, especially where the problem will arise unpredictably so it can’t be anticipated for accommodation without having another employee shadowing full time and ready to jump in.

          1. fposte*

            Though a lot of stores have underage cashiers who can’t check out alcohol, and they work around that just fine. And I believe this was at a Target, so it’s highly unlikely they’d have just one cashier available.

            (I agree that there are situations where it would be an undue hardship, but I think they’d be less common than those where accommodation was pretty simple.)

            1. LN*

              Yep, I regularly shop at a grocery store that sells beer and wine, and has a ton of underage cashiers. I often have to wait for a manager to scan my alcohol purchases, and it’s an inconvenience, but it’s something I accept because it’s a cultural norm here. Someone being unable to scan pork isn’t materially different, and really easy to accommodate in a similar way.

              1. Observer*

                Yeaah, that’s generally not a store that is accommodating a need of the worker. It’s the tradeoff they make for lots of (cheaper) labor.

                1. KellyK*

                  Right, but if it’s a trade off they can make because it benefits them, it’d be really hard for them to argue that doing the same thing for someone else is an undue hardship.

                2. Observer*

                  @KellyK – If the store does that, then that’s a potential issue. But, you can’t argue that because a different store does that, THIS store needs to do that. Even if the store works around underage cashiers and alcohol, the question arises how often people buy alcohol vs pork, and what the cashier is making vs the underage cashiers.

                3. Candi*

                  I think the level of accommodation also depends on the location. The Target in my city has been quite willing to accommodate multiple people.

                  (I like that store.)

                  That said, apparently they just got a new store manager, so we’ll see.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              Managers know that they cannot schedule the minor to work alone for this reason. The way they do it is to make sure others are scheduled and they are not minors.

              If the store is small and only one person works there (think convenience store selling pre-packaged deli meats made from pork) then this is not going to work out. (We have lots of these places here.)Their business model calls for one employee to be working at a time, there would not be anyone else to scan that deli meat or bacon.
              This person would also encounter problems with stocking tasks, ordering tasks, date code checking tasks and so on.

              I am almost talking about sandwiches here. So I will end with this- what seems like an easy thing can very quickly work into much more than anticipated, even if the store has a dozen employees all total, it’s easy to put the wrong combination of people on at the same time. And that happens frequently.

        2. Leatherwings*

          *sigh* maybe in some situations (there’s no need to what-if this to death), but the implication that the cashier should never have even taken the job is pretty insulting. This is getting OT so I’ll leave this here.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I think it’s the other way around. “Maybe in some situations” it would make sense for a cashier who can’t touch pork products to still take a job at a place that sells them. After all, my Walmart puts up a sign at the register when a cashier is underage and cannot ring up alcohol. Maybe the pork is a niche item, rarely sold. Maybe the store is large enough that you can put up a sign and deflect customers to a different register. But more often than not, if the store sells pork, every cashier should be able to handle pork. I’m having a hard time understanding how this could be insulting.

          2. paul*

            why is it insulting?

            I don’t care care if it’s a devout Catholic that won’t ring up condoms, a Muslim or Jew that won’t ring up pork, a Pentecostal that won’t ring up booze or whatever. if the core function of your job is to ring up purchases, then don’t take the job if you’re not willing to ring up purchases for what that store sells.

            1. Michele*

              I agree. I used to work with a woman whose husband quit his job when the place he worked for started doing payday-type loans (I don’t remember the details, but I was impressed that he quit). His religious beliefs said no usury, and he wasn’t willing to risk going to hell for his job. If your religious beliefs forbid you from doing a fundamental task at work, you have to find other work.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Honestly, I agree with this. My own beliefs restrict my interaction with certain more or less common items — and it’s on me to decide whether I’m comfortable handling them for other people. If I’m not, then I shouldn’t put myself in that position. I’ve worked in food service, but never somewhere with a liquor license. I’ve worked in retail, but never somewhere that sold cigarettes or alcohol. It’s just part of how I navigate the world as a religious person.

      2. Temperance*

        It’s actually not necessarily a reasonable accommodation. As a customer, I would be enraged if I waited in a long line at the grocery store and was then refused my bacon or hot dogs. It’s a more reasonable accommodation to have him work customer service or stock shelves, rather than deny customers.

        We had this very issue arise at the gas station where I worked after college. A man who couldn’t handle meat products due to his faith applied for the overnight job at the gas station, told us in the interview that he had no restrictions on work and that he was fine to work overnight alone/could make the hot dogs, burgers, etc. that the drunk students wanted to eat at night. His first day post-training, he refused to make the customer their cheesesteak. We had several complaints that week, he pushed back claiming a religious accommodation, and he was consequently terminated when he refused to make meat products.

        1. Natalie*

          Much like the morale issue, though, hypothetical angry customers isn’t considered a reason to deny an accommodation. And generally if one was the only cashier the bar for undue hardship would change.

          I’ve been at Target or whatever with a Muslim cashier and some bacon in my cart, and it took approximately 30 extra seconds for the cashier at the next stantion to scan my bacon. Or I could have, if I was really in a hurry. It’s not automatically a big deal.

          1. Observer*

            That’s not true. Potential angry customers are not a valid excuse when the customer’s complaint is motivated by a legally protected class. ie Someone doesn’t want one of “those” people making his food. That doesn’t fly. But, when the customer’s complaint is that the server refused to sell a product that the business sells, that’s a legitimate issue that the business has a right to take into account.

            1. Natalie*

              If there is a reasonable accommodation available, the business cannot use hypothetical angry customers as a reason to not make it.

              1. Observer*

                That’s not true – if the customers are angry for legitimate reasons, then it is, by definition, not a reasonable accommodation. So, if customers are angry because one of “those” people served them, that’s not considered valid. But, if customers are angry because they are not able to make their purchases, they are being delayed in the store or they are having their service or purchases being significantly negatively affected, then that is 100% a valid reason and any business is free to pay attention to their customers’ complaints on the matter.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  No, that’s not how the law works. The reasonableness of an accommodation is measured by the burden on the employer’s ability to conduct its operations. It’s not based on whether a customer is angry that they have to wait 30-60 seconds for a second cashier to assist them.

                2. Observer*

                  That’s a bit of a red herring. If the business is going to lose customers and / or sales, that’s a significant burden. It’s just that if the reason that they will lose customers is something that is not legitimate, then the employer has to ignore it.

          2. Temperance*

            Eh, when you have a person who refuses to provide a service (hot junk food) because of their own religious beliefs, it’s an undue hardship if no one else is there to pick up his slack. He was the only person working at that time, and the only person who could have provided the service. They were able to fire him because he pulled a bait-and-switch, and it would have been an undue hardship to allow him to continue working that particular shift when he wasn’t providing services to the customers.

            1. Natalie*

              Fair enough – I conflated your story with someone who was the only cashier with the top level comment about cashiers generally.

        2. LN*

          “Enraged,” really? I think you’re imagining a situation that doesn’t exist, wherein a cashier is telling you that you’re not allowed to buy meat products. In reality you’d need to just wait a few seconds for someone else to step in and scan it, just as you would if you were purchasing alcohol or tobacco products from an underage cashier (which happens to me several times per month at the very least, and I’ve yet to become enraged as a result). The gas station attendant was shitty and should’ve disclosed his issues with meat, and probably sought a job where it wasn’t necessary. But a cashier, even working alone, could in a dire circumstance ask the customer to grab the meat and swipe it over the scanner, there’s really no circumstance where it would materially interfere with someone getting what they need to buy.

          1. Observer*

            The way most scanners are set up, no a cashier canNOT ask the customer to scan something. It’s a totally not reasonable suggestion.

          2. Temperance*

            I 100% disagree with you. In this specific example, the attendant was declining customers hot, prepared food. There was no way for customers to serve themselves, since the cooking implements were behind the counter. Our clerk refused to serve them. We even tried to address the issue ahead of time, laying out all the job duties (cooking food included) and he confirmed that he could do all. He lied to get the job, and then tried to strong-arm his way onto the day shift.

            My local grocery store usually has one overnight cashier. A person who couldn’t touch meat shouldn’t have a job where they are required to touch meat. Enraged is the word that I’m going with because I frankly don’t have a ton of free time to run errands, and if I went grocery shopping and was denied a purchase, I’d be very, very angry. I’d be happy to wait a few for someone to come over and check me out if the person couldn’t handle, because I’m not a monster, but if it was just one person working, I’d be livid. It would mean that I either had to go shopping a second time, or find a new store.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      One theory posted upthread is that she didn’t discuss the details of the new position with her husband until after she’d already accepted it, and thus didn’t know she’d be forbidden to carry out some of the duties. Of course, she still could have gracefully withdrawn her acceptance…

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      She might’ve thought she could perform these duties. The religious rule is that she obeys her husband, nothing about driving cars or travel without her husband. Maybe he okayed them and then rescinded his permission. I was in an abusive relationship. While my ex didn’t do what the OP’s employee was doing, my ex definitely would say things were okay and then go back on it. Sometimes he had some reason, sometimes just because.

  38. C.*

    This might be a little tangential at this point, but I really feel for this employee to be in a situation where she’s unable to function as an adult without her husband’s approval or permission. The fact that she gets antsy at the sight of his car at the end of the day, to me, signifies something else is at play and I’m glad the first lawyer suggested looking into DV.

    1. Chickaletta*

      Yes, this is the part of the story that is most concerning to me too.

      I was going to say that looking into DV might be taking it a little far without knowing more about her culture and background, but this tidbit of info where she becomes anxious at the sight of her husband is a red flag.

  39. Resident Martian*

    I come from a background where pretty much everyone was either fully on board with wives submitting to husbands, or at least paid lip service to the idea. (I was given a book titled “Created to be his Helpmeet” at 16, for example.) But Mom and a couple other women stressed specifically that submission to your husband is not a legal defense, you have to claim a religious objection on your own part as well because the law doesn’t recognize that you’re not an autonomous person in God’s eyes.

    I really wish I was making this up but I’m not. I feel for this woman, but I really hope the company holds a firm line that what is going on is not acceptable.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I belong to a religion that says wives submit to their husbands. This is from the book of Ephesians, which also states that husbands should be willing to die for their wives. The emphasis is that both people have jobs to do, both people submit in love, and there can only be one head of the family.
      It works – because most men are reasonable and kind and not stupid.
      The problem comes when abusers take things out of context (as they will) to control others. This is not a religious problem as much as an abuse problem.
      Religious accommodation is about finding a way to make it work for BOTH parties. For example, I got my Sabbath off by swapping shifts with my coworkers and working late at night so they wouldn’t have to. I rarely had problems finding someone to cover for me.
      The problem with the scenario stated is that the woman isn’t trying to find a way to make it work for BOTH parties. I’d call her on it. If she is no longer allowed to travel then ask her how the travel portion gets covered. She is accepting more money for it. Is she willing to accept a pay cut for that part so others can go?
      The burden is never 100% on the employer to accommodate.

      1. caryatis*

        There can only be one head of the family? I’m sorry you’ve never seen an egalitarian marriage. They exist!

        1. Natalie*

          C’mon, this seems kind of a rude response to someone describing their religious beliefs. It seems clear that there is an implied “in my religion” before that sentence, not that she is unaware of the concept of an egalitarian marriage.

          1. Rhoda*

            But outside of fiction you will not be called to die for your partner. It seems strange to see obey me in every day life justified by I will die for you in extreme circumstances.
            Sometimes the more something is justified the worse a belief looks.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          That’s quite a jump to say I’ve never seen an egalitarian marriage. Especially since I’m an engineer and am in a male dominated field.
          I think you are also confusing the concept of “equal” with “the same”.

      2. E*

        I agree with you that it is extremely reasonable to ask the employee to work with the employer on accomodations so that the employees covering the needed travel aren’t completely inconvenienced, since taking on her travel isn’t exactly in their usual job duties. What if the employee had a temporary condition/illness and could not travel, or other personal reasons such as being primary caregiver for an older family member that meant she couldn’t travel overnight? Situations happen, not always from religion, and reasonable folks work with their employers to resolve the issue to everyone’s best satisfaction.

    2. Candi*

      “You’re not an autonomous person in God’s eyes.”

      Have these people ever read the whole Bible? Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, Judge Deborah? Lydia? All the Marys? Paul’s comments that men and women don’t have to marry?

      This selective out of context misinterpretation crap really cracks my teapots.

  40. Dizzy Steinway*

    I noticed some comments are calling for this woman to be fired.

    Don’t some states have protection against being fired for being a victim of DV?

    And wouldn’t coercive control fit that even if it can be ‘explained’ by a ‘belief’?

    1. Allypopx*

      IIRC, a few states have DV protections where you can’t fire someone for being or being perceived to be a victim of domestic violence. I think the coercive control argument might be shaky – my understanding (IANAL) is that in this instance they couldn’t fire her because her husband waits outside at the end of her shift, but could still fire her for refusing to perform essential functions of her job.

      But I’m not advocating that, though I think returning her to her old role would be reasonable.

      1. Dizzy Steinway*

        I wondered if coercive control is considered DV or if it applies only to physical violence – over here (UK) the definition was recently expanded to include things like financial abuse.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Coercive control is definitely considered DV in the (very few) states that have DV protections in the workplace. Financial and emotional abuse count, as well.

    2. Temperance*

      We don’t actually know whether LW’s employee is a victim of domestic violence. While I realize that how this employee’s husband is running her life is admittedly outside of the norm, I grew up in a faith where this was expected, although we didn’t have husbands interfering in work in this manner, because most women stayed home or worked part-time jobs, not careers.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s kind of what I added upthread. I’ve seen it in a context where both people are enthusiastically participating and it worked for them. I personally would never do this but I’m also not required to, thank goodness.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      For her to use the coercive control argument against being fired, she would have to admit she has a problem. This does not look likely here.

  41. Nervous Accountant*

    Oh dear God (ha!)

    Didn’t read all the comments yet but I sincerely hope this post doesn’t delve into which religion this woman belongs to….

    1. SP*

      Agreed! I immediately expanded all comments and did a control-F for “hotep” when I read this letter.

  42. Rusty Shackelford*

    I hope that some of the Queen’s workload is being distributed to the peons who are traveling in her stead.

    1. Temperance*

      It looks like they are already doing her job for her. Why further burden the innocent coworkers?

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Whoops. I said that backward. I hope some of *their* workload is being distributed to the Queen!

        1. The OP*

          OP here. One coworker has picked up noticable slack (she has gone on one trip that her role normally would not) and she got extra PTO for it, as well as the religious employee taking over an equal amount of her workload while she was away. So while we’re figuring it out, we’re certainly not screwing over the rest of the employees.

          1. MuseumChick*

            OP, please keep us updated with how this turns out. Would it be possible to reduce her salary and increase the salary of the employee doing the traveling?

  43. CBH*

    OP a few thing came to mind when reading this your dilemma. This is long…..

    First I’m concerned that your employee accepted the position knowing there might be a conflict. I realize there is a gray area with the religion aspect. I keep thinking of other work situation where accepting a position might have a conflict supported by a law… for example a working parent. If being an executive of the company means working 80 hours a week, but realistically with family needs said employee can only work 40, even though there are laws against such discrimination, the executive job offer requires 80 hours. I might not be comparing apples to apples, but all these comments examples are being given where coworkers have worked around religious conflicts. I’m just saying I respect your employee’s personal religious choices but something seems fishy to me.

    Since the job only requires the occasional travel, is there a way the employee can keep their position but restrict the perks? For example if a bonus is paid out, maybe forgo the bonus and send another employee. While you shouldn’t have to, can you reshuffle some of the work around so travel is not required.

    I do think you should bring up her husband picking her up early. She obviously is not giving the job the required attention. I feel bad saying this but it almost seems like this is an out for the situation, or at least an opening to a discussion. I’m not even sure if that is legal angle to look at things.

    RELIGIOUS REASONS ASIDE… I don’t know this employee’s religion, but the husband seems very controlling. Is it possible that these are not religious excuses, but some form of control, abuse. Please know I am not trying to offend any religion. It just seems like OP started to notice these changes/ personal requirements once the employee was higher up in the company – I’m assuming at this point OP and employee had more interaction. OP started noticing the anxiety, trouble paying attention when husband’s car is near, suddenly not being able to drive.

    1. LadyPhoenix*

      It seems awfully fishy that the person who could drive just fine before all of the sudden can’t drive because “queens can’t drive.”

      The phrase “queen” sounds icky yo me too in this context.

  44. Scott*

    I think the op is probably already making accommodations that are a hardship and therefore aren’t necessary or required. I think the op should be raising her antsiness to leave work early as an issue. Staying to complete the days work is super easy to defend as an essential function. I think if she has the discussion Husband may not like it but that may fix the problem.

  45. I am now a Llama*

    If the newly promoted employee was hired knowing that this was a requirement, and was not up-front about the ability to perform, then the simplest solution would be demote her back to her old job and find another.

  46. LadyPhoenix*

    I hear the low sound of bees in the distance.

    I would document her actions and her interactions with her husband while on site (obviously you can’t document what goes on at home). This can either help you if you are trying to negotiate a demotion, or help file if she is trying to file a domestic violence case against her husband.

    Other than that? Lawyer up. This is a serious case of hot rocks that you don’t want to fall on.

  47. Lily Rowan*

    As an aside, I really love how in any situation that comes up in a letter, there are multiple commenters with first-hand experience to bring to the table! For my part, I had never heard of Titus 2 as a model for marriage, and am really interested in different people’s perspectives.

    (I’ve thought of this with other issues that only directly relate to a small minority of people in the past as well. Such a great and diverse group!)

  48. Gingerbird*

    Just a thought about​ “Queens don’t drive.” The Queen of England was a car mechanic during WWII.

    Also, her husband is super controlling and screams abusive to me. But I don’t know what a manager’s role in this would be, if any.

      1. The OP*

        OP here. It’s also used here in the Bible Belt by Southern Baptist families. This employee’s situation is not the first time I’ve known a Christian couple to be a one-car household specifically because “queens don’t drive”.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Had a situation where BF was controlling an employee. She was nervous a lot and there were other things running at the same time. I don’t remember what triggered the showdown.
      BF and employee came into the building SCREAMING. I got called into it. Fortunately my big boss was BIG. He towered over most people. We got the fight broke up. Boss followed BF out the door. When Boss came back he said BF was in the lot CRYING his eyes out, absolutely blatting.
      You know, the harsher people act, sometimes the mushier they are on the inside.

      Not sure what this story means to you, OP. My take away was we do what we have to do as bosses. Most of the time stuff does not play out the way we think it will. Many times people are not what they seem. Keep a level head, a calm voice and remain logical. Focus on the business and the work itself, just as you have been doing.

      We really could not do anything for the employee. We tried to encourage her where possible. Eventually they moved away.

  49. Demote*

    Missing weekly external meetings due to a lack of vehicle seems like she’s unable to perform a fairly large part of her position.
    If she is otherwise amazing at her current position (to the point of making this worthwhile) I’d say
    1) buy some curtains so she can’t see her husband pull up and have a talk with her about staying on-task at the end of the day, or, if there’s a security gate, let them know not to let the husband in until after a certain time
    2) explain that going the weekly external meetings are a primary job function she needs to figure out and you’ll give her 1-2 weeks to come up with a viable plan for that, and
    3) you can accommodate her no-business-travel, but she’s going to have to give up a significant chunk of her new salary since she isn’t performing the task that warrants the pay increase. Whomever her second in command is will be assigned both the travel and the extra pay.

  50. Karenina*

    First of all: iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick.

    Second: I do wonder if the employee’s husband had her accept the promotion with the intent of using religion to get out of it after the fact. AKA: take the money and then bring up the conflict. I realize this seems very cynical, but this letter screams ‘intimate partner abuse’ to me and I grew up with people who claimed to be very religious but also would not hesitate to pull something deceptive and manipulative like that.

  51. DMV*

    Given the sudden change, is it possible she has lost her driving privileges with the state and not her husband? If she had perhaps gotten a DUI or lost her license due to an accrual of points for speeding or other violations, she may be trying to hide that fact with something as unimpeachable as religious beliefs. Perhaps she cannot travel because once she arrives at the location, she cannot secure a rental car without a valid license. Most likely, the situation is just as OP described it–wife choosing to obey husband, but the employee was driving and then suddenly stopped.
    DV often evolves into more and more control over the abused (why it’s so insidious), but the timing is interesting.

  52. Mira*

    I’m afraid to have to point out the glaring red flag here, but the OP says that this employee knew of the travel requirements for this role before she accepted it. In this case, cannot the employer simply take away the role, because well – it’s one thing to request accommodation for a sincerely held belief, and quite another to take up a role while already knowing that it goes against your sincerely held beliefs?

    Or at least, that’s not the way it should work. That’s like, say, a blind person taking a job at an art gallery where one of the aspects of the role is to evaluate new artists – and they take that role while knowing full well that they can’t do it, and then demand accommodation. Surely, in such a case, the employer is entitled to fire them or demote them, because the employee is intentionally agreeing to do a job they know they cannot handle for whatever reason?

    Surely, employees intentionally pulling such stunts shouldn’t be allowed?

    I’m not in the US, so I don’t know whether my logic is appropriate to the situation or not, but….this whole situation feels fishy to me. And also scary, for the controlled colleague.

    1. MuseumChick*

      While logic, it’s a messy legal question here in the USA. There have been other cases, like a Muslim woman who wouldn’t serve alcoholic beverages while working as a flight attendant. The messy part is really what is an essential function of the job? Not having more information the the OP’s case, traveling a few times doesn’t sound “essential” and they have been getting around it by sending others.

      I don’t know the legal ramifications but ideally in my world this would would lose part her pay increase, it would be given to the employee who has been handling the travel and is willing to continue.

    2. The OP*

      OP here. The belief is that she has to obey her husband, which has not changed. Though she was not married when she took the promotion, so the belief didn’t have any action. So what changed is she got married and now has action on her belief.

      1. Mira*

        I see. That does change perspective on things. I have faith you’ll get this sorted out to all parties’ satisfaction, or at least with fairness – and do update us, please!

  53. Inez*

    I wonder at what point does the job description trump the employees religious freedom? Like for example if a woman got a job as a Hooters Girl and then told her manager that her religion dictates that the husband is the head in the household and her husband wants her to wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt instead of the uniform?

    1. Sunflower*

      Companies can apply for BBOQ’s (Bona fide occupational qualifications). I believe Hooter’s actually has one.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Hooters IIRC has classed their waitstaff as “performers” which allows them a lot of freedom in stipulating appearance, clothing, gender, etc.

    2. LBK*

      Generally speaking you have to give exceptions to dress codes when requested for religious reasons unless the dress code is related to an essential function of the job (and just projecting a certain “image” isn’t considered essential, e.g. wanting everyone who works at a clothing store to only wear clothes from that store). Hooter’s is a borderline case and I’m not sure if their BFOQ applies beyond the sex-based hiring exception that allows them to only hire women as waitresses. But for a more extreme example, a strip club would most likely be able to fire/reject someone who wouldn’t strip for religious reasons.

      1. Natalie*

        Someone mentioned here once that Hooters always settles these things out of court because they don’t want their BFOQ possibly struck down.

      2. Bellatrix*

        On an interesting note, a US court ruled in favour of an Abercrombie job applicant who wanted to wear a hijab last year. As LBK said, projecting a certain image is unlikely to be an essential function of most jobs (though there will be exceptions, like with supermodels).

        I liked the Abercrombie case, because the reasoning emphasizes that pleasing customers with eye candy is not a valid reason to curtail another’s religious liberty. I just wish we could extend this past the religious aspect and stop caring about attractiveness in so many jobs where it isn’t essential. There’s nothing wrong with a shop assistant, receptionist or waitress not looking attractive, whether that’s because they want to be modest before god or because they dislike make-up. I hate how as a culture, we’ve established beauty as a measure of worth in women (less so in men, yet Abercrombie still had topless male shop assistants just a while back), making it a requirement of selling clothes, greeting visitors or serving food.

        But that’s a rant for another post.

  54. Bellatrix*

    My religion says I must obey my cat and my cat said I can only work from home and when she’s asleep and cannot perform any legal work for veterinarians.

    Apologies if this is a bit insensitive to what is undoubtedly a difficult situation for all involved, but as the lawyer in the answer said, you can’t use “obedience” as a way to turn every preference into a sincerely held religious belief.

    1. Jen RO*

      I was actually wondering how the law determines *what* a sincerely held religious belief is. Could I get Fridays off if I claimed to be a Pastafarian? I guess the answer is no, so why not? It’s not like there’s any proof that other religions are “more real”…

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Generally speaking the law is very forgiving on what constitutes a sincerely held religious belief, and leans more on the side of what constitutes a reasonable accommodation.

      2. Koko*

        It’s the “sincerity” part that is evaluated by a court or official, not the “religious” part. There is no litmus test, but generally to prove a sincerely held religious belief one of the major things they will look at is consistency with the rest of your life. For instance, if you need to pray at 3 PM every day at work and for some reason your employer challenged that, they might look to whether you pray at 3 PM on weekends and holidays or have always prayed at 3 PM in the past. They will also take into consideration whether the accommodation is something that would be desirable for secular reasons, such as if a particularly terrible task has to be done at 3 that you are conveniently unavailable for because of praying (especially if you previously tried to get out of doing the task and raising a religious objection is your second try). None of these are bright lines – someone might have never prayed at 3 PM before but genuinely became more devout; their past inconsistency doesn’t torpedo their request for an accommodation. It really just comes down to someone’s subjective assessment, but they aren’t assessing the validity of your religion – they’re assessing how sincere you are in claiming you need to do a particular thing for your religion.

        In your example, if someone indicated they were a devout pastafarian, and there are tenets or texts calling for no work on Fridays, and the person could show that they consistently apply their beliefs outside of work as well, and others could testify that they knew the person to be genuinely committed to following the FSM rules, then it wouldn’t matter that it’s a made-up religion. (and hey, aren’t all religions made up?) If you sincerely believe it, it’s a sincerely-held belief.

      3. a different Vicki*

        You probably could, in return for working every Saturday or Sunday, as was more convenient for your employer, or by working longer hours Monday through Thursday; few employers, and fewer of their lawyers, are going to want to wade into the morass of what constitutes a “real” religion. (It would probably be imprudent to as for Fridays off as a Pastafarian while also asking for time off for the Jewish holidays.)

  55. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Wow, this is an awful situation all round. I want to cry for that employee. OP, I hope everything works out for you and her.