Sabbath observer wins suit on firing

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by all4Him, Jul 20, 2001.

  1. all4Him

    all4Him
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    A Denver federal jury on Tuesday awarded $2.25 million to a former Pueblo air traffic controller who was fired for refusing to work on the Sabbath.

    The jury concluded that employers may not force religious worshipers to work on the Sabbath if it is their "sincerely held religious belief."

    "In a land where people question if justice still exists, I stand here to tell you it does," said a tearful Donald Reed, who now works for AT&T cable in Pueblo. "Freedom of religion is why this country exists - the people who founded it were escaping religious persecution."

    Reed does not belong to any organized religion but honors the Sabbath by praying and resting from sunset on Friday until sunset on Saturday.

    He was fired by the Federal Aviation Administration in August 1995 after working in the Pueblo control tower for five years.

    Two managers had accommodated his request, but a third, George Hof, called his religious belief "a scam," then fired him after he missed six Saturdays, according to testimony in the five-day trial.

    A jury of six men and two women in U.S. District Court in Denver took five hours to reach a unanimous verdict in the First Amendment case.

    Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office, which defended the case, said the government was disappointed by the verdict and "it is now under review."

    The verdict caps a six-year legal battle waged by Reed, who received the second-largest religious discrimination award from a federal jury since at least 1984.

    An Orthodox Jewish broadcaster was awarded $7.3 million after he was fired in 1999 for refusing to work on the Sabbath at a television station in Bergen County, N.J.

    Source: www.denverpost.com
     
  2. Rockfort

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    There's a big pile of dollars for "sincerely held religious beliefs" for some people, ain't there?
     
  3. Joy

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    What they do with those "piles" is between them and God. It is the message that was sent to the employers of America that persons can't be fired for religeous beliefs that is important. Sometimes the only way some people get the message is by paying for it! It's called principle.
     
  4. Kathy

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    So does this mean my husband can ask his employer for Sundays off to attend worship services and Wednesday nights off to attend bible study? I'm serious...could he do this without fear of losing hours? Any attorney's out there?

    Kathy
    <><
     
  5. Rockfort

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Kathy:
    So does this mean my husband can ask his employer for Sundays off to attend worship services and Wednesday nights off to attend bible study? I'm serious...could he do this without fear of losing hours? Any attorney's out there?

    Kathy
    &lt;&gt;&lt;
    <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Your question is a valid one on this subject. Just how far can this be taken? It is surely significant to note that the ruling was based upon the man's belief that it is wrong to work on the sabbath-- not on the premise that anyone can demand and get time off for church meetings any time they ask for it. Since I am a non-sabbatarian and I do not believe it is wrong to work any certain day of the week, I presume that ruling has nothing to do with me if I ask for every Sunday off, just because my church meets on that day, but I don't believe it *must* be that day.

    But if an employer legally must give time off for church/religious reasons to anyone who requests it at any time, that could eventually become chaotic, with workers demanding time off for visitation, home Bible study, JW's to do their door-to-door thing, or to make an angelfood cake [or devil's food] for a Wednesday night church supper. There probably would be less "calling in sick" if this excuse-- which an employer could not argue with for fear of litigation-- requires accomodation to that extent.

    How far does this, and should this, go?
     
  6. Bible Believing Bill

    Bible Believing Bill
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    From a non-legal point of view I would think that not working Sunday, Wednesday, or what ever day would be something that should be brought up when hired. It should not be a demand made at a later date. In the case described above it appears that he had been off on Sat. for a long time and that request should have continued to be honored. However if he had worked Sat. for years and suddenly asked to be off every one that would be a different story.

    I work in retail management and it is a seven day a week business. There are three managers in our store and one of us must be there at all times. Because of that I work my fair share of Sundays and Wednesday evenings. I will not ask off for all Sundays or Wednesday evenings because it would not be fair to the other managers. If it becomes to much of a burden to work thoes hours then I should be looking for another job. My pastor is very understanding of people who have to work Sun/Wed. He would like everyone to attend, but would much rather have someone miss service because they had to work than for them to just stay home and watch TV.
     
  7. Pennsylvania Jim

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    A word of caution...we must be careful not to violate our own principles in the pursuit of our "rights".

    It's popular today to use the gov't to force others to do things "our way". It seems to me that an important issue here is "who owns the company?" For example, if I own it, I can freely decide not to work on certain days, or to not require others to do the same. If the government owns it, they can decide what days to be open. But if you, or George, or Harry own it, is it right for me to use the gov't to force you to honor my religious convictions? And is that a legitimate power of the gov't?

    Admittedly we have what we have as far as the legal system, and it could be argued that it makes sense to go for "equal treatment", but I think we must be very careful here.
     

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