Turtles all the way down

A day off for ‘Festivus’? It could happen

Posted by doctore0 on November 6, 2014

MUKILTEO, Wash. — Seinfeld popularized “Festivus” as a mock holiday for all those who don’t follow traditional religions. Now, a new state law could actually force bosses to give public employees the day off for that, and just about anything else deemed a “day of faith.”

While most Americans automatically get time off on Christmas or during Hanukkah, other traditions aren’t always so lucky. To remedy that, lawmakers in Olympia passed a new law giving all public employees two unpaid days off from work for religious observances. The law went into effect in June and it begs the question, what constitutes a religion?

“It could be Festivus,” said Mukilteo city council president Randy Lord. “It isn’t up to me to determine what religion is good or bad.”

Lord said the law poses plenty of problems for public employers. Many municipalities already operate at minimum staffing levels to keep their budgets down. That means even though the two new holidays are unpaid, cities, school districts police departments and fire departments will all likely end up paying someone to fill those shifts. The law does not define what a religion is. It does say that workers can be denied time off if it poses a “hardship” for the employer, but no examples are given to define that term.

Right now, Mukilteo is working on a city policy to make sure there are no impromptu holiday celebrations.

“We need to make sure it’s within our existing time off policies,” said Lord. “That way no one shows up on a sunny day and calls it a religious day. That would just wreak havoc.”
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