NEW YORK (Jul. 15)
Supreme Court Justice Henry Epstein today barred the Arabian-American Oil Company from discriminating against prospective Jewish employes and said that if the company could not comply, it should “go elsewhere to serve your Arab masters–but not in New York State.”
The justice upset a ruling by the New York State Commission Against Discrimination which gave ARAMCO a “bona fide” exemption from the State Fair Employment law. He acted on an appeal from the ruling made by the American Jewish Congress. ARAMCO officials said they had no immediate comment on Judge Epstein’s ruling.
The judge criticized the ruling of the New York State Commission Against Discrimination which allowed ARAMCO to quiz prospective employes about their religion. “Any such holding would undermine the very foundation of our American concept of liberty and the constitutional safeguard of that liberty,” he stated. He said that upholding of American justice outweighed any considerations of the company’s relations with Arab governments.
The judge said the New York State agency’s decision to exempt ARAMCO from a law barring questions about religion made the agency a “vassal of a foreign power.” He noted that out of some 887 employes in New York of the ARAMCO offices, few if any at all were Jews. He said that “if, as perhaps correctly claimed by ARAMCO, this must result from the necessity of possible employment in Saudi Arabia, the answer of New York State is simply–go elsewhere to serve your Arab masters–but not in New York State.”
“The film of oil which blurs the vision of ARAMCO apparently has affected the respondent commission in this case,” Judge Epstein commented. Noting that the Commission already held color of skin is not a bonafide “occupational qualification” for exemption to the law, the judge said: “Then surely in 1959, religion cannot be so regarded Saudi Arabia and ARAMCO to the contrary notwithstanding.”