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Gov. Rockefeller to Ban Discrimination by Private Industry Against Sabbath Observers

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A major breakthrough in the area of legislation affecting Jewish interests was announced by Governor Nelson Rockefeller at a private breakfast meeting today with 50 national leaders of Orthodox Jewish organizations in the office of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, executive president of Agudath Israel of America. The Governor was warmly applauded when he reiterated a written commitment that he had made to Rabbi Sherer last week, to draft legislation to ban discrimination against Sabbath-observing Jews in private employ. Since 1967, a New York State law sponsored by Governor Rockefeller has banned discrimination against any state or city government employee on the grounds of his observing a Sabbath other than Sunday, or because of his necessity to absent himself from work on certain religious holidays.

In private industry, Jewish Sabbath observers have in the last two years found protection when several states adopted the guidelines of the Federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, which by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, banned any employer from refusing a job to a Sabbath observer, unless the employer could prove that he would suffer “undue hardship.” The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) has successfully spearheaded efforts in New York State and other areas for the fulfillment of these guidelines. In recent months, however, several legal decisions rendered by the courts raised serious doubts about the continued validity of these administrative regulations. The commitment by Governor Rockefeller to resolve the problem in the Legislature in 1971, in the event that the negative court decisions are not satisfactorily resolved by that date, was born out of a conference between Rabbi Sherer and the Governor during which the Agudath Israel leader brought to his attention the new necessity of broadening the existing laws which protect government employees, to include jobholders in the private sector.

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