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Three More Suits Filed Against Metropolitan Life in Sabbath Bias Charges

The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs announced today it was filing three new lawsuits against the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company over the company’s alleged continuing refusal to hire Sabbath observing Jews for positions other than as insurance salesmen.

Dr. Marvin Schick, president of the organization, said the new lawsuits were being filed because, after two years of negotiation and legal action, it had become “crystal clear” that the insurance firm, one of the largest in the country, had no intention of reversing its company-wide policy of rejecting job applications from Sabbath observers. The action will bring to five the number of lawsuits filed by COLPA against Metropolitan.

Two years ago, the organization brought suit before the New York State Commission on Human Rights in behalf of Bernard Rubin of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was denied a position by the company as a computer programmer. The commission initially rejected the suit on grounds that the employer was not obligated to accommodate Sabbath observers. COLPA took the case to the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan which, last July, remanded the case back to the commission for reconsideration in the light of new federal guidelines which provide that an employer may not bar a prospective employee for such reasons unless it can show that doing so would cause the employer undue hardship.

The second COLPA suit against the insurance company involved Sheila Sachs, of the Bronx, who was hired and promptly fired as a secretary by Metropolitan, Dr. Schick said. The Sachs case has been heard by the state commission and presumably will be decided on the basis of the commission’s ruling on the Rubin case, Dr. Schick said. He added he had been informed there would be a ruling in the Rubin case in four to six weeks.

In the three new cases, Dr. Schick said, the organization has decided to seek to by-pass the state commission with an appeal to the Federal Equal Employment. Opportunity Commission to intervene directly, rather than to use its customary procedure of referring cases back to the appropriate state commission. Dr. Schick said there was a precedent for such action by the Federal agency. He said COLPA filed such a direct appeal to the Federal agency two days ago for Miss Sheila Stein of Brooklyn, a senior at Brandeis University. He said she was interviewed on campus by the insurance company and told explicitly that it was company policy not to hire Sabbath observers for office jobs.

The other two cases, which will be filed after Passover, involve two girls, both high school seniors, who applied for permanent jobs, to start after graduation this June, and were told by Metropolitan that it did not hire Sabbath observers, Dr. Schick declared. He said that while the Federal agency may refer the case back to the New York commission technically, it could begin immediate hearings on the three cases. When cause is found of violation of the Federal guidelines, the Federal agency seeks to conciliate the disputes. In the event conciliation fails, Dr. Schick said, court action may be taken to compel the offending firm to hire the job applicants.

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