President’s Commission Sees No Bias in Compulsory Sabbath Work

The President’s Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity has decided to leave it largely to the discretion of the individual employer to decide whether to grant leave to employes whose religious holidays fall on normal work days. However, Dr. Luther Holcomb, acting chairman of the Commission, called on employers to treat all employes with “substantial uniformity.” If the employer lets a Christian off with pay on Good Friday, he is expected to treat Jews similarly on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

The policy announced by Dr. Holcomb affects primarily Sabbath-observing Jews, Seventh Day Adventists and some small Protestant sects that observe Saturdays as their Sabbath. Of the 7,000 complaints received by the Commission during the last year, about 70 percent involved religious discrimination. Most of these complaints were filed by Sabbatarians or persons who observe religious holidays on days when most businesses and offices remain open.

Dr. Holcomb indicated that, in case of conflict, work needs come first. “The Commission,” he said, “believes the duty not to discriminate on religious grounds includes an obligation on the part of the employer to accommodate to the reasonable religious needs of employes and, in some cases, prospective employes, where such accommodation can be made without serious inconvenience to the conduct of the business.”

Guidelines issued by the President’s Commission resulted from a thorough study of business practices, policies of state agencies, court decisions, and views of religious leaders. The guidelines “follow the rules of reason and common sense,” Dr. Holcomb said.

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