Vacation Day Crisis Averted


Jewish employees of New York City’s Human Resources Administration — one of the city’s largest public employers — will be able to use leave time for the upcoming High Holy Days, despite a new, more restrictive vacation-day policy.

Following complaints after HRA warned earlier this month that it would advance only two days’ leave to employees who wished to use advance leave time for religious reasons, the agency this week released a new personnel bulletin, announcing that it will handle religious holidays more flexibly, David Pollack, associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said.

Pollack was contacted last week by HRA employees upset by the new leave policy, which makes it more difficult to use not-yet-earned vacation days. He expressed the Jewish community’s concern to city political leaders; HRA Commissioner Robert Doar told him this week that “exceptions [to the restrictive policy] will be granted in virtually every case.”

“In line with the City’s policy, Agency Heads can, on a case-by-case basis, advance up to 10 days of annual leave to an employee for any purpose, including religious holidays,” HRA said in a statement this week.

The agency was “immediately responsive,” Pollack said. Doar “apologized for the confusion” over the amount of leave time to which Jewish employees are entitled. Pollack said he has no estimate of how many of the agency’s “tens of thousands of employees” would find the restrictive policy a burden.
Pollack said he was satisfied with Doar’s pledge. “It works. I’m totally satisfied he will make the exceptions. It was never their intention to be offensive.”
The New York Region of the Anti-Defamation League was to contact HRA this week, and urge the agency to accommodate “all religious employees,” said Ron Meier, regional director.

City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio wrote HRA last week, asking for a clarification and retraction of the restrictive leave policy.

“HRA’s new policy is narrower in scope than City regulations governing annual leave,” de Blasio wrote HRA. “According to Section 2.6.a of the Career and Salary Plan Leave Regulations, ‘an agency head may permit use of annual leave allowance before it’s earned, not exceeding two weeks.’ Prior to the recent changes, HRA imposed no limit on the amount of annual leave staff members could be advanced for religious observance.”

The restrictive policy “was profoundly unfair and poorly timed,” de Blasio told The Jewish Week. “The timing left observant public servants with little notice to shift vacation days. This is not how a New York City agency should treat its employees.”