ALBANY (Jan. 5)
The Court of Appeals reserved decision today on an appeal by the Arabian American Oil Company from two lower court rulings that it has no right to question job applicants about their religion. The oil company’s appeal was opposed by the American Jewish Congress, which accused Aramco of serving as the “tool and agent” of Saudi Arabia in screening Jews from employment both in Saudi Arabia and in the United States.
Shad Polier, chairman of the AJC Commission on Law and Social Action, asked the court to uphold decisions by the State Supreme Court and the Appellate Division calling on the New York State Commission Against Discrimination to probe charges that Aramco’s job practices violate the state Fair Employment Law. In a friend-of-the-court brief presented at today’s argument, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People supported the American Jewish Congress position.
Aramco’s attorney argued that the company asks job applicants to state their religion because it must comply with a ban on the entry of Jews to Saudi Arabia, where Aramco conducts its operations. Chester Bordeau, counsel for Aramco, also said that American political interests in the Middle East require that the company be granted an exemption from the state anti-discrimination law.
The American Jewish Congress attorney countered by charging that Aramco uses the religious question on its job application form as a device for barring Jews not only from employment in Saudi Arabia but also from jobs in its New York City operation, where the company has more than 800 employees. The Congress spokesman cited State Department commitments, U.S. Senate resolutions and other evidence indicating that “our government opposes the discriminatory practices of Saudi Arabia and does not condone the importation of those practices into our own country.”