Winning at Work: Telework Victory Helps Secure Important Accommodation

CAPE Members Secures Religious Accommodation Using the New Telework Article in Our Contract During the Ramadan

By Belal Tabannaj, Principal Civil Engineering Assistant, CAPE Member

Being a part of a union means we have a voice in our workplace to stand up and advocate for ourselves and our coworkers. That’s exactly what me and my fellow Muslim employees did when we requested a temporary religious accommodation to fully telework during the month of Ramadan and were approved!

As one of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan is a month-long observance in the Islamic faith that involves fasting (abstaining completely from food and drink) every day from dawn to dusk, increased worship, engaging in additional prayers every night, and seeking nearness to and forgiveness from God. Given the physical and mental demands of daily fasting and nightly prayers and the need to stay focused on those religious obligations, teleworking full-time allows Muslim employees like me to better manage our limited energy levels and observe our religious practices while allowing us to fulfill our daily job responsibilities in serving the public.

Together with our CAPE Business Agent, we built a plan and worked to find a solution. Utilizing   (1) the recently approved new CAPE contract/MOU that secures expanded telework opportunities, (2) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protects the right to religious accommodations, and (3) L.A. County DPW's “Work From Home” Guidelines – while also referencing the fact that Muslim employees were able to fully telework the last three Ramadans between 2020 and 2022 – I and other fellow Muslim employees were successfully granted our accommodation by HR and department administration.

We were successful, but it took work. It wasn’t a smooth process and at times we were met with premature rejections (even some without justification), inadequate alternative accommodations (that required us to use our own time and negatively impact operations), and multiple interactive process meetings with department admin and HR. We hope this victory and what we endured to gather these accommodations set the precedent for similar religious accommodations going forward.

"We hope this accomplishment sets the precedent for all Muslims, as well people of other religious backgrounds to be granted such an accommodation for our religious needs going forward. Accommodations are not favors handed to us but rights we are entitled. They are consistent with the various legal policies and guidelines we are bounded by and have fought so hard, and they help ensure the operational efficiency that the public expects."

Belal Tabannaj, Principal Civil Engineering Assistant, CAPE Member