DETROIT (Jun. 23)
Federal guidelines protecting the job rights of Sabbath observers have been upheld by a Federal court in Michigan in their first application to a local case in a suit in which an Orthodox lay organization participated in a “friend of the court” brief.
Lawrence Halpern, chairman of the Detroit chapter of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, told the Jewish News of Detroit that the decision of Federal District Court Judge Noel P. Fox of Grand Rapids had “far-reaching implications for religious Jewish Sabbath observers who are employed in Michigan and throughout the United States.” COLPA has been instrumental in obtaining promulgation of the Federal Equal Employment Commission rules protecting such job status.
The case involved Robert Dewey, a member of the Reformed Church, who was required by a union contract at Reynolds Metal Co. and by company policy to work on Sunday. He refused to do so because it was against his religious principles. The worker refused to obtain a Sunday replacement for himself on grounds that what was forbidden to him was forbidden to others.
Judge Fox wrote that a rule “which forces a person to choose between his religion and compensation benefits is penalizing him solely because of his religion.” He wrote also that Mr. Dewey had been forced to choose between his religion and his job and that such a choice “limits (the) plaintiff’s free exercise of his religion and is thereby discriminatory in its effect.” The jurist cited the Federal guidelines as “a very reasonable interpretation” of Federal law on such discrimination and said they “are hereby adopted as defining the requirement of the statute that an employer not discriminate on the basis of religion.” He ordered the company to reinstate Mr. Dewey with back pay,