In a letter to the Chrysler Corporation’s Chairman and CEO, Mr. R.J. Eaton, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, has commended Chrysler for accommodating the religious needs of a sabbath observant employee.
Mr. Barry Fishler, a worker at Chrysler’s Toledo, Ohio Jeep plant, was facing the prospect of losing his job due to his refusal to work on the sabbath. A 20-year veteran at the plant, Mr. Fishler’s shift schedule was changed upon his return to work from an extended medical leave. His new placement on the night shift would have required Mr. Fishler to work Friday nights, thereby violating the sabbath. The current state of the law requires Chrysler to do little to accommodate religious needs of employees like Mr. Fishler. Mr. Fishler’s attorney, Pete Silverman of Toledo, was in the process of initiating a letter writing campaign on behalf of Fisher, an effort in which the Orthodox Union was preparing to join. At the end of last week, Chrysler announced that it would permit Fishler not to work on Friday nights as long as he would return to the full schedule of the day shift as soon as that shift had an opening.
The letter sent to Mr. Eaton by the Orthodox Union stated, in part, that “Chrysler’s decision to work with Mr. Fishler in order to ensure that he can be both a good Chrysler employee and a good Jew is an act that will serve as a model for other American corporations and businesses. By supporting American values and showing faith in its employees, Chrysler has shown by example what responsible and sensitive corporate behavior should be and, significantly, that accommodating the religious needs of one’s employees is good business.”
The Orthodox Union’s Institute for Public Affairs, along with a host of other religious groups, are working to have Congress pass the Workplace Religious Freedom Act this year. That legislation would require employers to accommodate the needs of employees like Mr. Fishler as long as the employer would not suffer a significant hardship by doing so.
NATHAN J. DIAMENT Director, Institute for Public Affairs, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America