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Published on Friday, March 7, 2014

Bill requires employers to provide employees with two unpaid holidays for reasons of faith or conscience

Original version of SSB 5173 that passed the Senate stated that employers must allow an employee to take additional holidays on specific days for a reason of faith or conscience unless it imposed an undue hardship on the employer. This applies to employees of the state and its political subdivisions which is interpreted to include cities and towns.

The bill was amended in the House and restricted the number of holidays an employee can take to two, unless it would impose undue hardship on the employer or the employee is necessary to maintain public safety.

Current law mandates employers allow employees to have one paid holiday per calendar year in addition to the rest of the state recognized legal holidays. The intent of the bill is to allow the employee to take two additional unpaid holidays, if they are for reasons of faith or conscience. It appears this bill came from some concern in the prime sponsor’s district, Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle), about a specific religion having holidays where individuals would be absent from school or work and then experience negative consequences.

It is unclear how many cities would be impacted by this legislation. The bill passed the House today 64-32, but needs to return to the Senate for concurrence on the House amendments.

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