I am an observant Jew who keeps the Sabbath and all the Jewish holy days. I am looking for work as a marketing manager. I will be required to leave early on Fridays during certain months of the year, and take the days off for the holy days, as well as leave early on the eve of the holiday.
I am confused as to whether or not to disclose this in the job interview, or should I wait till I secure the job offer? At which point of the job search process do you recommend that I discuss my religious accommodations? I’ve heard many different responses from the community.
Signed: Shomeret Shabbat Job Seeker (SSJK)
Religious accommodations in the workplace is a hot topic on the Internet. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) in the hiring process, a job applicant’s religion cannot be considered as a selection criterion for employment. Consequently, invitations to apply for employment and job application forms cannot contain questions designed to reveal that religious requirements may conflict with the prospective employer’s work schedules or workplace routines, including inquiries as to religious affiliation, places of worship that are attended, or customs observed, to name a few. Further, the best time to request accommodations from an employer is when a person has been offered employment; at this point, they can notify the employer of any religious requirements that are relevant to the performance of his or her duties.
The OHRC also discusses flexible scheduling. The purpose of this measure is to allow a flexible work schedule for employees, or to allow for substitution or rescheduling of days when an employee’s religious beliefs do not permit him or her to work certain hours. For example, Seventh Day Adventists and members of the Jewish faith observe a Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. Observant members of these religions cannot work at these times. Flexible scheduling may include alternative arrival and departure times on the days when the person cannot work for the entire period, or use of lunch times in exchange for early departure or staggered work hours. Where the person has already used up paid holy days to which he or she is entitled, the employer should also consider permitting the employee to make up time lost or use floating days off.
What happens in the real world and with your search for employment is very interesting. Carrie Klians, Emet Employment’s Job Developer, encourages job seekers NOT to disclose on the interview, unless they are specifically asked by the interviewer if they have any problems with the time schedule and hours of the position. Then, Klians suggests that the candidate present the schedule accommodations of early Fridays and religious holy days, and propose that “I would be happy to make up the time as required, and am flexible to work evenings and Sundays”.
Dan Woog wrote an excellent article on Monster.ca on religious accommodations in the workplace. Reassure the employer that you will get your work done, proposes Woog, and “offer to do something for your workgroup beyond what’s required is one way to demonstrate you have the company’s best interests at heart. For example, if you are Jewish and need time off for the Jewish holy days and early Fridays, you could offer to work later or on Christian holidays. It’s less effective to simply ask for days off”. Woog also encourages employees to be flexible about accommodation in the workplace by showing employers that they have taken a thoughtful approach to their situation.
Our Employment Counsellor and Social Media Specialist, Karin Lewis, advises job seekers to focus on making a particularly strong impression during the job interview, so that when you disclose your need for religious accommodations at the end of the interview, employers will be reluctant to risk losing you as a future employee. Needless to say, adds Lewis, you will not be able to work at this company if you cannot get this time off, so it’s critical to come clean in the job interview. Mention to the employer that you need certain accommodations with the work schedule and negotiate alternative ways to make up the time. For example, working from home, starting at an earlier time, working in the evenings and/or on Sundays. Lewis stresses that you should be crystal clear about the accommodations you require, as well as what you are willing to offer in place of this lost time. She concurs with Woog that you should make sure to reiterate to the employer that you are willing to do whatever it takes to do a great job!
Thanks very much for the great question.