No excuse for unexcused time off
In late 2008 at MacArthur Middle School in Berkley, Ill., Safoorah Khan was fired after taking 19 days of unpaid leave against the school district’s permission to make a pilgrimage to Mecca. Khan complained of religious discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which recommended her case to the Justice Department. A suit, filed on her behalf in December 2010, states the district failed to reasonably accommodate her religious practices. Though some may call the suit frivolous or say that Khan is wasting taxpayer dollars, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Hajj, a pillar of the Islamic faith, must be undertaken when one has the ability to do so, and to Khan her decision was clear.
Conservatives claim the object of the suit is political, an attempt to gather support from what they claim as being blacks, Jews and now Muslims for the Obama administration, while Liberals answer with claims of anti-Islamic bigotry from the Conservatives.
How many days can one miss, or what accommodations can be made until their request for time off becomes unreasonable? It’s to be noted that such a prolonged absence could have a negative impact on students; especially since Khan’s pilgrimage fell during the critical end of the semester grading period.
Students maintain the right to acquire a good education and to be prepared for their exams. No matter what reason, a first-year teacher who fails to show commitment to her student’s is often something people say teachers should be fired for.
Khan’s attorney, Kamran Memon, stated “19 days sounds like a long time,” but insisted that, from a legal perspective that “doesn’t really matter.” What matters is whether the employer makes a reasonable accommodation, and in this case, he said, it made none.
This is apparently the case. The school district failed to negotiate with Khan on the acceptable amount of days she could take off. Though this doesn’t settle the issue, the length of time is an important factor.
Judging by previous cases of this nature, like Trans World Airlines v. Hardison, where a man’s firing for being unable to work Saturdays due to religious obligations was upheld in court, it would seem like Khan would lose this case. However, with talks involving political motivation, she might have her day in court.
Chris Goetzman, a physics senior, said, “Though an agreement should have been made from the beginning, and it’s a shame to have an unsympathetic employer, there is an element of social burden that an individual upholds.
“The issue is a personal matter, not an issue a judge or society has to be accountable for.”
The school did what they had to do. Kahn’s requests were something that would have burdened the school and her classes.