Observant Jew Cannot Work Saturday Shifts

  1. Dear Nurse Beth,

    I am a nurse with 4 years experience. I am also an observant Jew hence I observe the Sabbath. At my current job, I work every Sunday instead of alternating weekends (Saturday and Sunday). I went on a job interview today and the manager straight out asked me about working the weekend which would be Friday and Saturday for the night shift.

    So obviously I had to answer and tell her I would not be able to work any Friday nights and many Saturday nights wouldn't work as well but I am willing to work Sundays every week and legal holidays and ie i am flexible and accommodating. There was a awkward feel in the room. The interview went on but I can't help but feel I will lose the job because of this. Could have I done something different? Is the manager correct for asking me this? I feel like she's opened a religious can of worms and as this is a really big corporation, how could they not be accommodating? Please tell me your input, Nurse Beth. I so badly want this job but the possible worst thing could be is me turned down because of something which is personal while I'm an excellent candidate otherwise.


    Dear Observant Jew Who Cannot Work Friday Nights,


    Some organizations are more flexible than others, and many, if not most, do try to accommodate personal requests. However, organizations are not required to change requirements of the job to accommodate individual employees.


    The problem comes when accommodating an individual request comes at the cost of another individual and affects the ability to provide services.


    Let me see if I can help you see this from a manager's point of view. Let's say there are 10 nurses on night shift. To keep the unit open and provide patient care services, 5 nurses are needed every night.
    Hence each of the 10 nurses are required to work every other weekend to evenly share the burden of weekend requirements.


    Let's say that weekends are defined as Friday and Saturday nights for night shifters. That is customary for hospitals. (Sunday nights are typically not counted as a weekend night, as 3 nights cannot be designated as the weekend for purposes of meeting the weekend requirement).


    So you and 4 other coworkers are scheduled to work every other weekend as part of your job. If you cannot work your weekend shifts, the manager is unable to cover
    the unit, and cannot provide the required patient care services. You must think through how your shift will be covered.


    You are willing to work Sunday nights, but in return you want every Friday night off. That may not be seen as a fair trade-off. To balance the schedule, you would need a co-worker who wants Sunday nights off as badly as you want Friday nights off, and who is willing to work every Friday night. From a co-worker's point of view, it is highly unlikely that one would agree to working both her required
    weekend shifts...and all of yours.
    And that's the problem.


    I myself work for Adventist Health, which also observes the Sabbath. But that doesn't mean the hospital closes on Saturdays, or that employees do not have to work Saturdays. Nurses, Nutritional Services, PBX operators....everyone works their share of weekends.


    When interviewing and trying to land a job, it's important to present yourself as a solution to their problems, and not to present a problem. Your best bet is to look for an organization or a unit that operates Monday-Friday.



    Best wishes,


    Nurse Beth

    Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!
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    About Nurse Beth, MSN, RN

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    36 Comments

  3. by   dfridm
    I wouidn't mind working every Saturday so I could have Sunday's off to watch football. Unfortunatly, my unit isn't going for it.
  4. by   zmom23
    I am also an observant Jew and haven't had a problem with my job accommodating me, although I know I am lucky in this regard. I also work with Seventh Day Adventists who have Saturday off, and the facility accommodates them as well. I think the problem with the job you applied for, is that their requirements are Friday night and Saturday night, neither of which you can help them with. In my facility, the requirements are Saturday night and Sunday night and I work EVERY Sunday night. They have a per diem worker who covers Saturday night on my weekend. As Nurth Beth said, the facility might feel it would make scheduling too complicated and if they have other qualified candidates, why should they go out of their way to accommodate you. I don't think that should be classified as religious discrimination. That being said, there are places that will make the effort and it's not necessarily difficult to have per diem workers cover the missing shift.

    And just for the record, being a religious Jew is not similar to preferring to watch football on a Sunday. I speak for myself when I say that as a religous Jew, I will never work on Saturday even if I couldn't find a single hospital job that would accommodate me. I would find a M-F job as Nurse Beth said. Religion is not something I compromise on for convenience.
  5. by   Oldmahubbard
    The trouble is that Friday nights are much more socially valuable than Sunday nights. On Friday nights, the restaurants, movie theaters, and bars are all packed.

    Sunday nights are basically for getting your work clothes ready for the week.
  6. by   zmom23
    agree with above ^^^ but many places still consider Sat night and Sun night the weekend requirement. Therefore, a reasonable option is to find a place that does that and is willing to work with you rather than a place that has Fri night and Sat night requirement, neither of which you can fulfill. Also there are a few months in the winter where Sabbath ends early enough to work Saturday night, so that is also an option, but doesn't work for most of the year.
  7. by   nursemaryzzel
    I too am an observant Jew. However, I am able to work those shifts after consulting with my rabbi because it fulfills my mitzvahs (i.e., caring for the sick and ailing). I would encourage you to speak with your rabbi and see if there is any spiritual comfort that you would be okay with working Fri night shifts with.
  8. by   tarapom
    Hi Nurse Beth,
    There is actually an Orthodox Jewish Nurses Association that is totally geared toward helping Orthodox Jews navigate issues such as these. You can find them at www.jewishnurses.org or on facebook and linkedin.
    Hatzlacha,
    Nurse Rivka
  9. by   Mavrick
    Your reasons for being unable to fulfill the requirements of the job (religious or otherwise) do not matter. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees, not re-model an entire hospital wing. In a 24/7/365 business, it is not reasonable to require someone else to consistently work a shift you choose not to work. Just re-write the arbitrary religious rules you choose to selectively follow to accommodate your personal snowflake situation. You are an unqualified employment candidate.

    Or.

    Stay at your current job. Keep looking for a job that is similar to your current schedule.
  10. by   Oldmahubbard
    I am not a Jew, but disagree with the use of "snowflake" in this context.

    I have seen employers refuse to make accommodations of any kind in nursing, no matter what type of laws and paperwork are in place, because nurses always complain so bitterly if anyone is perceived to potentially have an "easier assignment".

    This is never, ever seen in any other occupation.
  11. by   Ruby Vee
    As a Catholic, I am expected to attend Mass every weekend. As an ICU nurse, I'm expected to work every other weekend. As I work 12 hour shifts, there is not a weekend mass scheduled during a time that I can attend. My priest (and the priest of every parish to which I have belonged) views caring for the sick as a legitimate reason to miss going to church. Even when one is getting paid for caring for the sick, and even when it occurs every other week.

    I work with a number of Catholics, many of them who attend my parish and thus have the same accomodating pastor as I have who insist that "it's against my religion" to work Sundays. (Or Saturday night before a Sunday because that would make them "too tired" to participate in Sunday's worship.) It seems that many of members of my congregation are claiming to need Friday and Saturday nights off (or Sunday day off) for religious reasons when the real reason is they just don't want to work weekends.

    I cannot help wondering how many of the folks who "cannot work on the Sabbath" would find their clergy to be perfectly accomodating if they would only discuss the weekend requirements of the job with the clergy.

    Those folks who cannot meet the weekend requirement are free to work in jobs where there is no weekend requirement. But having a great number of colleagues who claim not to be "allowed" to work weekends because of religious reasons puts a huge burden on the rest of us. That's unfair to those of us who are working their weekends, and it puts an undue burden on the manager.
  12. by   Mavrick
    Quote from Ruby Vee
    As a Catholic, I am expected to attend Mass every weekend. As an ICU nurse, I'm expected to work every other weekend. As I work 12 hour shifts, there is not a weekend mass scheduled during a time that I can attend. My priest (and the priest of every parish to which I have belonged) views caring for the sick as a legitimate reason to miss going to church. Even when one is getting paid for caring for the sick, and even when it occurs every other week.

    I work with a number of Catholics, many of them who attend my parish and thus have the same accomodating pastor as I have who insist that "it's against my religion" to work Sundays. (Or Saturday night before a Sunday because that would make them "too tired" to participate in Sunday's worship.) It seems that many of members of my congregation are claiming to need Friday and Saturday nights off (or Sunday day off) for religious reasons when the real reason is they just don't want to work weekends.

    I cannot help wondering how many of the folks who "cannot work on the Sabbath" would find their clergy to be perfectly accomodating if they would only discuss the weekend requirements of the job with the clergy.

    Those folks who cannot meet the weekend requirement are free to work in jobs where there is no weekend requirement. But having a great number of colleagues who claim not to be "allowed" to work weekends because of religious reasons puts a huge burden on the rest of us. That's unfair to those of us who are working their weekends, and it puts an undue burden on the manager.
    Praise the Lord! Words sent from Heaven above.

    It all boils down to a snowflake's interpretation of religion.
    Last edit by traumaRUs on Feb 25 : Reason: TOS
  13. by   adventure_rn
    Another thing that's tricky is that it will depend entirely on how prospective units schedule. For instance, I used to work on a unit that used self-scheduling, and we had to take two 'weekend nights' every other week where Saturday and Sunday counted as weekends. It would have been very easy for you to self-schedule without Fridays or Saturdays in that set-up by working every Sunday (like you do now).

    In contrast, I currently work on a unit that uses a repeating two-week pattern system (you work the same pattern every other week), and you have to take two 'weekend nights' every other week where Friday and Saturday counted as weekends. If you were to get a 'Sunday only' pattern, it would technically mean that you weren't working any weekends (since Sundays don't count as a 'weekend day'); you'd never be eligible for that kind of pattern without at least a few years of seniority.

    It is possible that you can make it work, depending on the unit. However, even if it could work out based on the scheduling policy, I completely understand why a manager wouldn't want to guarentee that it would work every single weekend right from the get-go. Also, you're probably already aware of this as an experienced nurse, but when you orient you'll be expected to work your preceptors' schedule without special accommodations.

    Could you try applying for day shift positions? Then you'd only be taking off Saturday, not Friday and Saturday. Otherwise, I'd either focus your applications on outpatient facilities that only work weekdays, or stay in your current job where you're guaranteed your specific schedule.
  14. by   Pixie.RN
    If a job has schedule requirements that you cannot fulfill, it is not a good match for you, no matter how much you want it.

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