Firm Ordered to Re-hire Orthodox Jew It Fired for Refusing to Work on Sabbath

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has ordered a local mattress manufacturing firm to restore the job of an Orthodox Jew it had dismissed for refusing to work on Saturdays. The referee appointed by the Commission also ordered the firm to pay $1500 in general damages to the complainant, Morley Rand, 30.

Rand had been earning $350 per week as a maintenance mechanic at Sealy Eastern, Ltd. After his dismissal in February, 1981, he supported his wife and infant daughter with unemployment insurance and personal borrowings until he found another job, recently. He said the complaint he brought against Sealy “was for principle. A company will think first before they try this again,” he said, adding “It’s not just the Jewish religion, it’s any religion.”

Rand said he might sue his former employer for unjust dismissal to recover the $18,000 he lost in wages during his period of unemployment.

In what was termed a precedent-setting decision, the referee, Osgoode Hall Law Prof. Peter Cumming, ruled the company discriminated against Rand by trying to force him to work on the Jewish Sabbath. Rand had informed Sealy officials when hired that he would not work on the Sabbath. He worked seven weeks before he was ordered to work on the holiday, the referee found.

Robert Reuter, the Human Rights Commion lawyer who argued on Rand’s behalf, called the decision a landmark ruling because it required employers to justify working conditions which may infringe on the rights of a worker. Cumming said, in his ruling that “there was no ill-will toward Rand because of his religious beliefs. Rather, his religious beliefs were used as a convenient means to rid the plant manager of an unwanted employee.”

The complaint of discrimination was filed jointly by Rand and the Canadian Union of Industrial Employees. The Canadian Jewish Congress acted as a consultant to Rand through its Community Relations Committee.

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