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Colpa to Seek Reinstatement of Sabbath Observer Fired for Leaving Work Early

The National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA) reported today it was planning to file petitions in New Jersey state and federal human rights agencies for reinstatement of a New York Jewish clerk who was fired for leaving work at 2:30 p.m. on a winter Friday to be home in time for his Sabbath.

The agency intervened in the case initially at the request of the clerk, whose name was withheld, who was an employe in the Morristown, N.J, office of the New York-based firm of Keuffel and Esser. An examiner for the New Jersey Unemployment Insurance Division ruled that the clerk was not entitled to jobless benefits because he had “provoked” his dismissal by leaving work early on that Friday after his employer ordered him to stop doing so, though he had done so for six years.

At the clerk’s request, a COLPA attorney represented him at a hearing before the Appeal Tribunal of the New Jersey Division of Employment Security. The tribunal reversed the examiner and ordered $1140 in jobless benefits paid to the dismissed clerk. A COLPA attorney argued that the claimant could not be deemed to have “provoked” his dismissal in the usual sense simply by continuing a long-standing practice which involved the exercise of a legally-protected right. The attorney also argued that US Supreme Court decisions banned states, as a matter of constitutional law, from denying job less benefits to employes dismissed solely for deviating from a company’s general employment policies to observe a tenet of their religion.

Howard Rhine, COLPA president, said that, in discussions on action on the jobless pay issues, the clerk was advised he had the right under federal and New Jersey state employment guidelines to seek additional claims. Rhine said that accordingly COLPA would seek to obtain rulings giving the clerk the option of back pay or reinstatement and possibly damages.

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