7th Circuit Rules

Employers on Notice of

Leave Request


Employee had Returned to

Nigeria for Burial Rites,

Got Fired


References to Spiritual

Activities and the Afterlife

were Sufficient           

In Adeyeye v. Heartland Sweetners, _F3d_, No. 12-3820 (7th Cir. 2013) an employee presented written requests to his employer to travel to Nigeria to lead the burial rites of his father. For his first request he wanted five weeks “in order to participate in the funeral rite according to our custom and tradition.” When this was declined, he sent a second request that referred to “funeral ceremony,” “funeral rite,” an animal sacrifice, and the spiritual deaths of his family members, and him, if he failed to comply with compulsory participation. Adeyeye was fired when he went on leave without permission, and sued under Title VII in federal court. In reversing summary judgment, the appeals court noted that Heartland could have sought clarification about whether the requests were religious in nature.

           Lesson: If an unclear request of this kind comes across your desk, you have a duty to inquire, to clarify its possible religious nature.