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Adjustment of Work Schedules for Religious Observances

Fact Sheet: Adjustment of Work Schedules for Religious Observances


To the extent that modifications in work schedules do not interfere with the efficient accomplishment of an agency's mission, an employee whose personal religious beliefs require that he or she abstain from work at certain times of the workday or workweek must be permitted to work alternative work hours so that the employee can meet the religious obligation. The hours worked in lieu of the normal work schedule do not create any entitlement to premium pay (including overtime pay).

Employee Coverage

Adjustments of work schedules for religious observances may be approved for an employee who is employed in or under an executive agency, as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code.


Agencies should require employees to submit a written request for an adjusted work schedule in advance. An employee should specifically state that his or her request for an adjusted work schedule is for religious purposes and should provide acceptable documentation of the need to abstain from work.

When deciding whether an employees request for an adjusted work schedule should be approved, a supervisor should not make any judgment about the employees religious beliefs or his or her affiliation with a religious organization. A supervisor may disapprove an employees request if modifications of an employees work schedule would interfere with the efficient accomplishment of the agencys mission.

If an employees request is approved, a supervisor may determine whether the alternative work hours will be scheduled before or after the religious observance.

Documenting an Adjusted Work Schedule

An employees request for time off should not be granted without simultaneously scheduling the hours during which the employee will work to make up the time. This provides a clear record of the employees adjusted work schedule. An employee should be allowed to accumulate only the number of hours of work needed to make up for previous or anticipated absences from work for religious observances.

If an employee is absent when he or she is scheduled to perform work to make up for a planned absence for a religious observance, the employee must take paid leave, request leave without pay, or be charged absent without leave, if appropriate. These are the same options that apply to any other absence from an employees basic work schedule.

Impact on Pay

The overtime pay provisions of title 5, United States Code, and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended, do not apply to employees who work different hours or days because of religious observances, even if an employee voluntarily works in excess of 40 hours per week or 8 hours per day for this purpose. If an employee is separated or transferred before using the time set aside for religious observances, any hours not used must be paid at the employees rate of basic pay in effect when the extra hours of work were performed.


  • 5 U.S.C. 5550a
  • 5 CFR part 550, subpart J
  • Comptroller General Opinions: B-209327, July 26, 1983;
  • B-212486, October 31, 1983
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