Senate Measure to Aid Sabbathobserving Civil Service Workers

The Senate approved by voice vote and sent to President Carter Monday for his scheduled signing a bill previously adopted by the House which will permit Sabbath-observing civil service workers to take time off for religious observance without penalty. Under existing regulations, such federal workers must have time off deducted either from vacation time or from their salaries.

The measure, introduced by Stephen Solarz (D. NY), was approved last March by the House by a vote of 288-57. The federal Employe Pay Act requires overtime pay for federal Employe working more than eight hours a day. A Civil Service Commission ruling held that the overtime requirement applied to Sabbath-observing federal workers seeking to make up time by working more than eight hours, despite their willingness to waive overtime pay.

After the ruling, a number of federal agencies refused to permit such time to be made up by extra work, forcing Sabbath observers to take the time off from vacation or salaries. After House passage, the White House indicated concern, on constitutional grounds, because of the religious observance basis of the proposed waiver. Solarz then invited Nathan Lewin, vice-president of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, to make a presentation on the constitutionality of the bill, which exempts extra work by Sabbath observers from the overtime pay requirement. After Lewin’s presentation, White House support was promised immediately.

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