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Labor Department Issues Sabbath-observer Regulation at Request of Jewish Law Group

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The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) announced today that the Department of Labor has issued proposed regulations protecting the rights of Sabbath-observers employed or applying for jobs with firms which contract with the federal government. The published regulations will go into effect after a 30-day period in which public comment is invited. They require government contractors “to make reasonable accommodations to the religious needs of employees and applicants for employment” who “regularly observe Friday evening and Saturday, or some other day of the week, as the Sabbath.” Nathan Lewin, chairman of COLPA’s Washington, D.O. Chapter, which had requested the issuance of the regulation several months ago and had negotiated with Labor Department officials on its wording, hailed the new regulations as “added protection for the observant Jew and for adherents to other faiths who are now denied employment or promotion simply because an employer who would be able, with slight inconvenience, to hire them is not sympathetic to their religious needs.”

Lewin noted that the proposed Labor Department regulations direct contractors to give written “reasons in detail” whenever they feel that a particular job cannot be filled by a Sabbath-observer. They also require employers to provide, “for general distribution,” signed notices stating that they will accommodate Sabbath-observers. “COLPA will continue to press government agencies to issue regulations protecting the religious rights of Sabbath-observing employees.” Lewin said. He noted that there have been many instances of such religious discrimination in federal employment, particularly in the Post Office Department. “As matters stand now,” he said, “the federal government has not provided for its own employees the same religious guarantees it directs for employees of private concerns.” In April 1969, he reported, COLPA requested the Civil Service Commission to issue a guideline for federal employment similar to that previously issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Negotiations over language have been completed and the recommendation is on the desk of the Chairman of the Civil Services Commission. Lewin said. However, “it has not been dislodged by Senatorial and Congressional requests. “He noted that COLPA will feel obliged to take the question to court if there is more delay by the Commission.

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