Employee Refusing to Work on Sabbath Loses Case in New Jersey Court

Dismissal of an employee who wanted time off without pay to observe Passover and the Jewish Sabbath does not constitute religious discrimination, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court ruled yesterday. The case is expected to be taken to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The plaintiff was Sharma Temmelman of Flemington. N.J., who refused to work on Saturdays or after sundowns on Fridays during the winter months. She was fired April 11 by the Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation of Raritan. The 18-year-old Orthodox Jewess asked $55,000 damages but did not seek reinstatement.

In the letter of dismissal, the company said that Miss Temmelman’s demands for permission to leave early on Fridays during the winter and to be absent on Saturdays “and certain other days” would “materially affect your ability to complete your work assignments.”

The Appellate court decision affirmed a ruling by Superior Court Judge Frank L. Kingfield, who declared: “It is a somewhat sad commentary upon our modern civilization that a person has to lose her employment because of a desire to participate in a religious ceremony. However, an employer today likewise has a problem. Industries can ill afford to have any of the cogs of their machinery slowed up.” The Appellate Division decision was confined to the issue of religious discrimination.

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