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New York - Lawsuit Accusing Port Authority Of Violating 'Shabbat' Rights Rejected By NJ Judge

Published on: November 20, 2018 09:00 PM
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New York - A civil rights lawsuit that accused the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey of religious discrimination was rejected by a United States District Judge in Newark who said that the agency had taken sufficient steps to accommodate the plaintiff’s observance of Orthodox Jewish law.

In a decision handed down last week by Judge Kevin McNulty, the court said that Gary Miller, who worked for the Port Authority at Newark Liberty Airport as a utility systems maintainer (USM) for three months in 2015, failed to prove that his constitutional rights had been violated.

Miller’s position with the Port Authority required him to work on a 35 day rotating schedule, which at times required him to be at work on Friday nights or on Saturdays, with only the most senior USMs awarded the privilege of working 7 AM to 3 PM Monday through Friday shifts. 

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Several days after starting to work at the Port Authority, Miller told his supervisors that his religious observance dictated he could not work on Friday afternoons starting at least four hours before sunset and could not work on Saturdays until two hours after sunset. 

Miller also informed the Port Authority that he observed eight religious holidays:  Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Succos, Shemini Atzeres, Simchas Torah, Purim, Pesach and Shavuos.
The Port Authority provided the court with evidence that it offered Miller several options to accommodate his religious beliefs, which included swapping shifts with other employees, and using vacation, personal excused time or compensatory time in those instances when his schedule conflicted with his religious obligations.

The agency argued that simply exempting Miller from weekend work schedules would have violated several provisions of the Port Authority’s collective bargaining agreement with its employees’ union, including a requirement that senior employees be given priority on a weekend-free schedule. 
While Miller claimed that he did not recall if he had ever been offered the option of using his leave time to avoid working on Friday nights and Shabbos, court records show that the Port Authority produced affidavits and testimony saying that the conversations had taken place and that Miller had taken advantage of personal excused time on seven different occasions in July and February, 2015.

With no personal time left in March, Miller failed to show up for his scheduled shift after his request for unpaid personal time was rejected on four occasions, leaving the Port Authority to bring in another employee who was paid overtime for covering Miller’s shift.  Miller was fired shortly thereafter.

Miller also alleged that other employees were reluctant to swap shifts with him, without producing any evidence to support that claim.  The Port Authority, however, produced sworn testimony from another employee who said that he had told Miller that he would happily swap shifts with him as needed.

Judge McNulty ruled that Miller’s request for a blanket accommodation that would free him of all shifts that conflicted with Shabbos or holidays posed an undue hardship on the Port Authority.

The judge’s decision also found that the agency went above and beyond the call of duty by offering Miller options that were not normally available to employees, giving him the ability to perform unlimited swaps with his co-workers instead of the usual two per month, and allowing him to take vacation time in single days instead of blocks as was typically required.

Miller’s lawyer David Zatuchi did not immediately return a request for comment.  Port Authority attorney Cheryl Alterman was not immediately available to comment on the matter.



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Read Comments (10)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Nov 20, 2018 at 09:20 PM Anonymous Says:

Something smells about this ruling, and the Port Authority's attitude!

2

 Nov 21, 2018 at 12:30 AM dermunkatcher Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

Something smells about this ruling, and the Port Authority's attitude!

Do you also realize the smell of Chilul Hashem of all the things that Miller doesn't remember being offered and other employees clearly remembering.

3

 Nov 21, 2018 at 04:43 AM Gersey Says:

Another Chillul Hashem, from someone looking for a payday from some agency for his religious belief. If you know that you must work on shabbas, then your choice is DO NOT take the job. Or do you believe that it is hashem that provides.

4

 Nov 21, 2018 at 07:29 AM qazxc Says:

Sounds like the judge rules that the Port Authority complied with the law by making reasonable accommodation for his religious needs.

BH courts have required them to do so. I am old enough to remember when Orthodox Jews simply could not work certain jobs because of short Fridays and Yomim Tovim.

We can thank civil rights groups and all those Liberal judges we all live to bash, as well as some extremely devoted askonim for protections we now take for granted.

5

 Nov 21, 2018 at 08:17 AM LionofZion Says:

A good friend of mine, starting out in a junior role at a bank, had a tough boss who gave him a hard time with his early Fridays. My friend called me one day, excited, he had figured out a way to solve his problem. He proceeded to use his 6 vacation days to take off the shortest Fridays of the year. We were roomates for two years but never took a vacation together, he never had the days.
That is called being a Mentsch.

6

 Nov 21, 2018 at 08:28 AM qazxc Says:

Reply to #3  
Gersey Says:

Another Chillul Hashem, from someone looking for a payday from some agency for his religious belief. If you know that you must work on shabbas, then your choice is DO NOT take the job. Or do you believe that it is hashem that provides.

The law requires the employer to make reasonable accommodation for the employee's religious practices.

The religious practices of a shomer shabbos person can usually be worked into a work schedule in large organisation.

No reason for him not to take the job, assuming he will be reasonable too.

7

 Nov 21, 2018 at 09:56 AM commonsense99 Says:

I worked in middle management for various insurance companies and for the City of NY, Never had an issue with Shabbos or Yom Tov, always took vacation or personal days for Yom Tov, if I had enough days in my bank I took off Chol Hamoed, I had one boss who gave me an issue about short Fridays she was an open and proud bigot, I kept a log of all her comments about Jews, I left for a better job and I heard later she was fired.

8

 Nov 21, 2018 at 09:59 AM Reb Yid Says:

Reply to #2  
dermunkatcher Says:

Do you also realize the smell of Chilul Hashem of all the things that Miller doesn't remember being offered and other employees clearly remembering.

Or the smell of some union employee magically remembering something that serves his union and boss well.

9

 Nov 21, 2018 at 01:19 PM The_Truth Says:

Reply to #7  
commonsense99 Says:

I worked in middle management for various insurance companies and for the City of NY, Never had an issue with Shabbos or Yom Tov, always took vacation or personal days for Yom Tov, if I had enough days in my bank I took off Chol Hamoed, I had one boss who gave me an issue about short Fridays she was an open and proud bigot, I kept a log of all her comments about Jews, I left for a better job and I heard later she was fired.

BH the laws are in place that government jobs and big corporations have to accommodate our religious observances. It has not always been this way , people seem to have too short a memory. Be thankful for what you have and appreciate it as it could all be taken away in an instant.
A word of advice: If a job does not seem to accommodate your religious observances (like you need to take off friday afternoons 4 hours before shabbos, or need to work friday night and shabbos), then that job is not for you. Dont take a job that requires it and then complain about it afterwards.

10

 Nov 21, 2018 at 02:21 PM Secular Says:

4 hours before sunset

11

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