Policy Number: 112
Observing Religious Holy Days
I. POLICY AND GENERAL STATEMENT
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston ("university") observes two kinds of holidays each fiscal year, which are designated from year to year on the university's Holiday and Vacation Schedule. On some of the holidays, the university is officially closed; on others, the university must "have on hand enough personnel to carry on ... public business." (Refer to HOOP Policy 27 Holidays.)
University holidays may or may not fall on a "religious holy day," which is defined as a day observed by a religion whose places of worship are exempt from state property taxation. Employees and students of the university who wish to observe religious holy days that are not part of the university holiday schedule must follow the procedures outlined below.
No employee or student will be discriminated against or penalized for being absent from work or school to observe a religious holy day that is not an official university holiday, provided that he or she gives proper notice of the absence.
Employees who wish to observe a religious holy day may do so by requesting accrued applicable paid leave in advance (refer to HOOP Policy 28 Vacation), by working one "public business" holiday (refer to HOOP Policy 27 Holidays) for each religious holy day to be taken, or by combining both methods. Alternatively, employees may request unpaid leave (refer to HOOP 31 Unpaid Leave Eligibility).
In addition to the above, faculty members must give proper notice of their intent to observe religious holy days that will require absence from assigned responsibilities. "Proper notice" means that, before the first class day of the semester in which the religious holy day falls, the faculty member must provide to the department chair/equivalent a list of religious holy days that he or she will observe during the upcoming semester. This written list must be personally delivered to, acknowledged by, and dated by the chair/equivalent or must be sent to the chair/equivalent by certified mail, return receipt requested. The faculty member is responsible for finding a qualified substitute to teach any class(es) missed or for making other arrangements acceptable to the students affected by the absence(s) and to the department chair/equivalent. The faculty member is also responsible for finding a qualified substitute or making other arrangements acceptable to the department chair/equivalent for clinical and other assigned responsibilities.
2. Non-faculty employees
In accordance with departmental policy, non-faculty employees must request supervisory permission in advance to observe a religious holy day and must specify whether accrued applicable paid leave will be taken and/or a public business holiday worked due to the observance of the religious holy day.
Students who wish to observe a religious holy day that interferes with classes, examinations or completion of assignments, must inform the instructor of each class to be missed and/or of the planned absence(s) not later than the fifteenth day of the semester. The notification must be in writing and must be delivered by the student personally to each instructor, with receipt of the notification acknowledged and dated by each instructor. The instructor must respond to the student within a reasonable period of time. Pursuant to Texas law, a request to observe a religious holy day may be denied if the student’s absence will interfere with clinical care.
A student who follows these procedures and is excused from class for a religious holy day may not be penalized, but the instructor may appropriately respond if the student fails to satisfactorily complete a missed assignment or examination within a reasonable time after the absence.
If a student and an instructor disagree about whether the absence is for the observance of a religious holy day; or about whether the student has been given a reasonable time to complete any missed assignments or examinations; or if the student has not received a timely response from an instructor about a requested absence, either the student or the instructor may request a ruling from the Executive Vice President for Academic and Research Affairs ("EVPARA"). The student and instructor shall abide by the decision of the EVPARA, whom the President has designated to render such rulings.
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