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Jewish Groups Urge New Legislation After Court Ruling Against Moslem

Jewish groups are disappointed with a Supreme Court ruling Tuesday exempting U.S. companies abroad from compliance with federal laws barring racial and religious discrimination.

In a 6-3 decision, the court ruled against a U.S.-naturalized Moslem working for the Saudi Arabian American Oil Co., who was not allowed to take time off from work on a Moslem holiday.

The American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith joined a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Ali Boureslan of El Paso, Texas.

The groups argued that Boureslan’s rights should be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for the majority, said there was no clear evidence that Congress intended to apply the law to U.S. companies overseas.

Jewish groups immediately called for legislation to make existing civil rights laws applicable to Americans working abroad.

“The language can be formulated quite easily to say that Title VII does apply to American citizens working for American companies abroad,” said Samuel Rabinove, legal director of the AJCommittee.

On Tuesday, Phil Baum, AJCongress associate executive director, wrote Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Texas), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), to encourage them to include such language in a major civil rights bill that is intended to reverse several recent Supreme Court rulings scaling back the use of affirmative action to help minorities gain employment and promotions.

At the start of the 102nd Congress, Brooks reintroduced such a bill, which was vetoed last year by President Bush, who said he feared it would lead to minority hiring quotas. Kennedy is expected to reintroduce the bill in the Senate.

The Supreme Court decision, in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. Aramco, upheld a 9-5 ruling against Boureslan by the 5th U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Joining Rehnquist in the majority were Justices Byron White, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and David Souter. Dissenting were Justices Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun and John Paul Stevens.

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