Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – hailed the New York State legislature’s passage late last night of legislation to promote and protect the ability of people of faith to have their religious needs accommodated by their employers.
The New York Workplace Religious Freedom Act is amends the State’s anti-discrimination laws to ensure that no one ought to be forced to choose between their career and their conscience. The measure will encourage employers to accommodate their employees’ observance of religious holidays by allowing them flexible working hours in order to take time off for such religious observances. The measure will also promote the ability of employees to wear clothing or groom themselves in a manner consistent with their religious faith (ie: observant Jews’ ability to wear skullcaps, Sikhs’ to wear beards & turbans, etc.).
This legislation is a high priority issue for the Orthodox Union and its constituency, as well as many other religious communities, which is promoting similar bipartisan legislation currently pending in the U.S. Congress. The New York legislation was developed initially in concert with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, and quickly championed by Governor George Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Bruno, as well as Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and Senator Dean Skelos.
In the wake of the legislature’s passage of the Workplace Religious Freedom measure, Union president Harvey Blitz stated: “the Orthodox Union, its constituents and, indeed, all New Yorkers of all faiths are very grateful today to the Governor, Speaker, Attorney General, Senate Majority Leader and, in truth, all of our elected representatives in Albany who have once again affirmed America’s commitment to religious liberty. In the wake of 9/11, it is more important than ever for us to reaffirm our commitment to this noble principle and to ensure that it is protected in the real lives of people. The legislation passed last night does just this, and we are, again, very grateful.”