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Religious Holidays & Observances

Planning for Religious Holidays, Observances, and Accommodations

Cornell faculty and staff represent a variety of religious backgrounds and faiths, including those who subscribe to no religion or are non-observant. There are many widely observed religious holidays (some of which may be more familiar to you than others). To create and maintain an inclusive and respectful workplace for all employees regardless of religious belief or non-belief, we ask that faculty and staff keep the following guidelines and best practices in mind:

  • Use an inclusive approach if/when celebrating events and holidays.
  • Plan important work-related events, meetings, programs, meals, and travel for days other than observed religious holidays.
  • Avoid or modify work-related banquets and other meal events during fasting times (e.g., Ramadan, Yom Kippur, Lent).
  • When decorating, follow all guidelines that limit displays based on maintenance and safety requirements unique to any area.
  • Be aware and respectful of cultural traditions. Educate yourself on the origins of particular symbols, customs, imagery, clothing/attire, and other items or practices when considering whether to use them at events or in displays. Be mindful to show appreciation for cultural traditions and acknowledge the history of such items. Avoid cultural appropriation. There are a variety of definitions of cultural appropriation; in general it refers to the use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that reinforces stereotypes and/or demonstrates a lack of understanding of the historical context of, or the meanings behind, these elements, and thus can be considered offensive to members of that cultural group.
  • Allow flexible schedules to accommodate religious observances.
  • Allow staff the use of available time away leave (e.g., vacation, unpaid, or health and personal leave) to accommodate religious observances.
  • Consult the religious accommodation process to resolve a conflict between an employee’s request for religious observance, e.g., head covering, fasting or facial jewelry, and the business needs of the department.  

For more information on religious accommodations in the workplace, please contact the Department of Inclusion and Belonging at (607) 255-3976 or