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RECOGNIZING RELIGIOUS

HOLIDAYS IN MASSACHUSETTS

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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.

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