Forcing Employers to Give Employees More Leave Time

I worked for a well-known church organization as a child care teacher. In getting extra time off from work, I remember back in the early 80s, a co-worker asked to take two weeks off to go on short-term missions trip. There was some hemming and hawing coming from management as they waited to hear from headquarters on which way to go on the matter. The co-worker was finally given permission and left with other church members on a 2 week missionary trip to Haiti. The unpaid time off was given in addition to vacation time. A substitute did her assignments.

A few years later and from that point on with the change in management (and at headquarters), if you did not have enough accumulated vacation time to use, the answer to future short-termed 2/3 week missionary trip requests was an immediate “NO.” The new reaction from headquarters was if you can go unpaid, then they were wasting money on you with paid benefits (and back then, those benefits were extra ordinary for a child care teacher).  If something important was going on during your requested time off, like a state inspection, you could still be told “NO,” even when you had accumulated paid vacation days.

Someone, I know made plans to go on a short-term missions trip to an African country some years ago, which was a little longer than 2 weeks. The person was initially given permission. On their last day of work, this person was told “NO.” The person went on the missions trip anyway and returned to unemployment.

This Illinois discrimination case where Muslim math teacher, Safoorah Khan was denied her request of  3 weeks unpaid leave  from her middle school to make the pilgrimage to Mecca known as the Hajj is supported by the Department of Justice – DOJ. Her pilgrimage was just before final exams. Ms. Khan resigned to make the Hajj. The DOJ says the school board violated Title Seven of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which  prohibits an employer from discriminating on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or religion. Now did this civil rights act really apply to Ms. Khan’s denied unpaid leave request?

I think the DOJ opened a big can of worms to say the least! Accommodating Ms. Khan’s extended absence at the expense of her students during the school year goes against the best educational interests of schools. You know employees are watching to see how what the final outcome will be. If I were still a child care director, I could see employees sighting the DOJ and Title Seven in trying to wrangle enormous amounts of time off for suspect spiritual reasons and being self-assured of their job being in place for them on return.

Employees being out other than through the use of rightly accrued benefit time,is rather devastating. That is the case with child care. These days most centers do not have budget money alloted for substitutes as some did in the 80s. Well, employers start preparing for the onslaught of leave time requests and legal battles if and when you say “NO.”