HOLIDAYS IN MASSACHUSETTS
In the 1970's, the State of Massachusetts passed a law which protected
workers who wanted to take time off to celebrate religious holidays. It
guaranteed them vacation time without reprisals from their employer. The
law also required employers to use sick time or vacation time entitlement
so that no wages would be lost. Unfortunately, this law required the state
to arbitrate any conflict by deciding whether an employees' claim was
justified: that is, whether the requested time off fell within the
requirements of the worker's religious beliefs and affiliation. The law
was found to be unconstitutional on the basis that the state cannot be an
arbitor in religious issues without violating the principle of separation
of church and state.
A revision to this law was written, but was not passed by the end of year
deadline. A revised bill will be brought to the legislature in 1997. This
will remove the state as arbitor and will recognize as valid any religious
obligations that the worker states in their testimony.