Today, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America – the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization – joined with other religious leaders at a Manhattan press conference to support the introduction of legislation designed to afford greater legal protection to the religious needs of employees in the workplace. The legislative effort is being spearheaded by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver.
The legislation will prod employers in New York to provide employees with flexible work schedules so that they may observe religious holidays and encourage employers to permit employees to wear religious clothing in the workplace. All of this is in a framework that guarantees that employers need not offer these accommodations when doing so would be an undue hardship upon the employer.
Union president Harvey Blitz issued the following statement at the press conference announcing this legislative initiative:
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, in particular, our many New York constituents, strongly endorses the workplace religious freedom legislation and applauds Attorney General Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Silver for leading this effort. Too many New Yorkers have been asked too often to choose between their careers and their consciences. We have seen major corporations refuse to hire people because of their commitment to observe the Sabbath and have seen other businesses fire people because they are religiously obliged to wear beards or head-coverings.
During his tenure of the last few years, Attorney General Spitzer has been a champion of religious liberty by pressing employers to accommodate the religious needs of their employees and threatening legal action when they do not. But the threat of litigation is only a stop-gap solution, and that is why the Orthodox Jewish community is so pleased that Mr. Spitzer has joined with Speaker Silver in his longtime crusade to secure greater protection for the religious liberties of working New Yorkers. We are deeply appreciative and hope the legislature will act quickly to enact this critical initiative.