Keeping of the Sabbath is an important part of religious traditions. In Exodus 20:9,10, it is stated: “Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any manner of work ….” Leviticus 23:3 provides that: “For six days work may be done, but the seventh day is to be a Sabbath of complete rest, a day of sacred assembly. You are not to do any work; wherever you live, it is a Sabbath to the LORD.”
Illinois also has a One Day Rest in Seven Act which commands that: “Every employer shall allow every employee except those specified in this Section at least twenty-four consecutive hours of rest in every calendar week in addition to the regular period of rest allowed at the close of each working day.” 820 ILCS 140
Unlike not following a Commandment, however, the One Day Rest in Seven Act has very little teeth for enforcement purposes. It does not provide for a private right of action, allows for exceptions, and has a relatively small penalty for violations (a petty offense, providing for a fine as low as $25). 820 ILCS 140/7.
Is it illegal for my employer to make work 7 days in a row? In Illinois, some employees cannot be forced to work 7 days in a row. However, the law that enforces this right has very little enforcement power. Nevertheless, we find that frequently an employer who imposes a 7 day work schedule, often will violate other areas of the law such as overtime pay or other requirements.
If an employee’s inability to work is truly motivated by religious beliefs, they may be entitled to request a religious accommodation. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act provides that “[t]he term ‘religion’ includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). It is “an unlawful employment practice . . . for an employer not to make reasonable accommodations, short of undue hardship, for the religious practices of his employees and prospective employees.” Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 74 (1977).