Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization–through its Institute for Public Affairs, applauded the announcement of a consent agreement entered into between the State of New York and the Sears Corporation with regard to accommodating the religious needs of Sears’ Sabbath observant employees.
The consent agreement, announced at a press conference this morning by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, arises from complaints by Jewish and Seventh Day Adventist Sabbath observers who previously worked as Sears repair technicians, but lost their jobs over their inability to work on Saturdays. An investigation by Mr. Spitzer’s office, followed by intensive negotiations with Sears, led to the announced agreement under which Sears will accommodate the religious needs of Sabbath observant employees.
Under the agreement, Sears will give 5 Sabbath observant employees back pay, train all of its New York recruitment personnel with regard to religious accommodation and fund a $225,000 American Law Institute training program for all American companies on the subject of religious accommodation. Most significantly, Sears will create a work schedule for repair technicians that will ensure Sabbath-friendly hours for those who require them.
Richard Stone, Chairman of the Union’s Institute, stated that “the Orthodox Jewish community is very grateful for the intensive efforts of Attorney General Spitzer in this case. His appreciation for the importance of ensuring that religious employees have their religious needs accommodated on the job is very significant.”
Institute Director Nathan Diament stated that “we hope this consent agreement, and the facts revealed by the investigation that led up to it, draw attention to the problem of the lack of religious accommodation in American workplaces. We hope it will be a catalyst for Congress to pass the Workplace Religious Freedom Act – a bipartisan measure designed to address this very issue and ensure that no religious American is faced with choosing between career and conscience.”