From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
New York Win for Sabbath-Observers a Step in the Right Direction,
"Beckett, John" <BeckettJ@gc.adventist.org>
12 Apr 2000 09:35:08
says Adventist lawyer
Adventist News Network
Seventh-day Adventist Church World Headquarters
April 11, 2000
New York Win for Sabbath-Observers a Step in the Right Direction, says
New York, New York .... [ANN]
Retail giant Sears, Roebuck & Co. will allow its New York State employees
who have religious objections to working on Saturday to work on Sunday
instead. This concession is part of a larger settlement, reached Tuesday,
April 4, between Sears and the New York State Attorney General's office. The
attorney general has been investigating complaints that Sears fired Donovan
Reed, a Seventh-day Adventist repair-person, and refused employment to as
many as five Orthodox Jews because they could not work on Saturday.
"People should not be forced to choose between their faith and supporting
their family," State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer told reporters after
announcing the details of the settlement. The agreement also includes ten
$12,000 scholarships for Sabbath observers to attend technical repair
training school, religious accommodation training for Sears personnel, and
$100,000 to the attorney general's office to help cover costs associated
with the investigation.
Seventh-day Adventist lawyer Mitchell Tyner, an associate in the world
Church's Office of General Counsel, welcomes the New York settlement as a
step forward in educating employers about the need to be more flexible in
accommodating their employees' religious beliefs.
"It's especially encouraging to see a state attorney general get serious
about religious discrimination in the workplace and to achieve something
substantial," says Tyner, who provided the New York Attorney General's
office with information on similar Sabbath employment cases involving
Adventist Church members.
Tyner notes, however, that the terms of the agreement apply only to Sears'
New York State operations, and says that, on the whole, federal legal
protection for employees needing on-the-job religious accommodation has
often proved inadequate.
"The Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA), introduced into the House on
April 11, would strengthen the legal position of individuals trying to
juggle the demands of their faith with those of their work," says Tyner, who
helped draft the legislation.
The bill would "clarify the burden of employers to accommodate the religious
needs of their employees," says Tyner, adding that WFRA would provide both
employers and employees with a better understanding of the legal
requirements. "Two employees, for instance, would be able to voluntarily
swap individual shifts without violating a labor union contract," he says.
The legislation would also deem partial measures-such as occasional relief
from Sabbath work-as insufficient in meeting the legal standard of
Support for WRFA has come from a diverse coalition of civil rights and
religious organizations, including the General Conference of Seventh-day
Adventists, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League.
The bill has been introduced into Congress each session for the past five
years. Despite the lack of headway so far, supporters say the bill is
steadily gaining the bilateral political support necessary to make the bill
law. [Bettina Krause]
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
12501 Old Columbia Pike
Silver Spring, MD 20904-6600
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