Post by Akiva Adiv on Sept 16, 2015 9:56:41 GMT -5
I have been thinking about this for a while and would like to get others opinions on it. When it comes to holidays, especially those which work is prohibited, what do people do regarding work.
The debate I am having with myself is whether I should take holidays off as unpaid absences vs. vacation/holiday time which is paid. My reasoning I am leaning toward the unpaid absence is that even though I am not working on Yom Tov, I am gaining money for that day. That said, I do other things that aren't necessarily permitted during Yom Tov.
Post by Debbie B. on Sept 16, 2015 14:59:29 GMT -5
I would advise you to take the vacation/holiday time first and then take additional days if needed as unpaid absence. It is important to note that being "paid" for Yom Tov days is not a problem---otherwise, how could rabbis and cantors be paid for their work when significant responsibilities concern what they do for the congregation on Shabbat and Yom Tov? In fact, a few members of my lay-led minyan seldom attend our High Holiday services because they work as prayer leaders during those holidays for small congregations that don't have full-time rabbis or cantors and whose members either don't have the skills to lead those services or the congregation wants someone with good voice to lead. Some of the people who do these holiday "gigs" were full-time professional cantors for other congregations in the past and now just do that work for holidays. I believe it pays pretty well even though it means that they have to be away from their family and friends on those days and it's a lot of hours of "work" during those few days. Some would say that these holiday prayer leaders are technically being paid for the "preparation time" and not the time on Yom Tov, but everyone knows that they are really being paid for "work" on Yom Tov since (a) these people learned these services well some decades ago and probably do not have to even review beforehand (b) they would be unlikely to be still be paid if they "prepared", but then were unable to lead the services on the actual days of Yom Tov due to some unexpected last minute issue.
I am not a rabbi, but as long as you are not actually cashing your paycheck on Yom Tov (which would violate another Yom Tov prohibition of writing to sign the back of it), I don't think it matters whether the accounting office of your job attributes payment as being for the date of the holiday. If you didn't actually do work on that day, then the payment for the day is just a benefit, not payment for services rendered. Jews are not supposed to "handle" money on Yom Tov, but your employers are not going to put actual cash into your hands on the day.
I think the total number of days off and when you take them is more likely to be an issue for most jobs, especially if there is any seasonal variation in workload (such as when Passover overlaps with tax season). If you take just 2-3 days for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it is less likely to be an issue, but if you take off the full schedule of Yom Tov days which could add as many as four days for each of Sukkot and Passover, plus another two for Shavuot, (depending on which days of the week they fall out on) then it is likely to be more of an issue. When I was a faculty member at a university on the quarter system, I always anxiously checked the university and Jewish calendars and hoped that the many holidays that often occur in September would not land on important university dates for the beginning of the school year. Luckily, since my main student advising responsibilities were for students in a relatively small master's program which I was in charge of, I was able to schedule the orientation meetings and individual advising sessions around the Jewish holidays and I would tell the students in advance about which days I would not be available.
An interesting example of how one large employer with good benefits handles religious holiday days off for its employees: My husband works for IBM which allows employees three paid days off a year for "personal reasons or religious holidays". But if an employee takes all three of those days for religious holidays, then that employee is allowed to take up to three additional paid days for religious holidays. So my husband is able to take six paid days off every year for whichever of the many Jewish holidays fall on weekdays. It is a policy that he will miss next year since he is in the process of taking "early retirement" from IBM to do a second career (or actually "third career" after his previous brief academic career as a college professor) to teach physics and math at a public high school. Many of the public high schools in our area are closed on the first day of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur due to high percentages of Jewish students and teachers, but that still leaves a lot of holidays that are likely to occur on school days.
Debbie's husband has an exceptionally liberal employer - I always used vacation days when possible. We didn't get any 'personal days' except as sick days, and if we took sick days, we had to either pay them back by working an extra day, or bring a doctor's note (or both). But I was able to arrange my work schedule so that I could manage to have the Jewish holidays falling on my days off, when I could. The work was 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, but I could arrange my schedule (and did) to have Saturdays off, and with a week advance notice, could move my days off to cover holidays, fairly often (as long as I worked 80 hours within a pay period, all was good). Sometimes I arranged with a co worker such that we had every day covered and each of us had days off that we wanted. Anyway there are options. A 'vacation day' is a day on which you specifically do NOT work, and getting the pay for that is a 'benefit' of the job. Go ahead and use your vacation time (paid time) for the holy days.
Update: My husband now works for a public school that as far as he knows has no Jewish students and only one other Jewish teacher, so it does not close specifically for any of the Jewish holidays. Since Yom Kippur was on a weekend, at least he didn't have to worry about taking off a day for that holiday. But he did take two days off for Rosh Hashanah and he is planning to take off a day for the first day of Sukkot, but not Yom Tov Sheni (the second day of chag). I don't think he is planning to take time from work for Shmini Atzeret or Simchat Torah. On the other hand, looking ahead to Pesach, since the first night of Passover is on "Good Friday" and Easter is during Passover, his school's spring break starts with erev Pesach and extends for the whole week, so he will be on vacation for the whole holiday. Unfortunately, neither my son's college nor my daughter's law school have spring break's that coincide with the holiday, but my son can come home for the seders since his college is nearby and perhaps my daughter can fly back from DC since she has no Friday classes and the seders are on a weekend.
I wish more companies allowed employees 10 holidays to be used at their discretion rather than prescribing federal holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Veteran's Day, etc. Some places will allow you to substitute one of those paid holidays for a religious holiday if you ask. I'm sure most HR departments would consider this a reasonable accommodation for religious beliefs so long as there isn't a compelling business reason for them to require you to "go with the herd" as it were...
I usually use PTO for holidays. Luckily, I work 12 hour shifts, so not all of the holidays fall on my work days. My employer hired me knowing I was observant, and they're pretty accommodating to let me off. I got hired right before Pesach. Another employee traded days with me, and I had to take one day unpaid. It's just something to give your employer a heads up on during orientation...or as in my case, I gave it during my interview.