Albany, NY – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a settlement with the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country, and Jacobi Medical Center, a facility within that network, to safeguard all employees’ rights to religious accommodations. Today’s settlement requires the institutionalization of best practices at HHC’s several facilities, and ensures that employees’ religious accommodations requests will be handled in accordance with the New York State Human Rights Law, New York City Human Rights Law, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The AG office’s opened an investigation after several full-time nurses at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx complained in July 2011 that they were repeatedly denied requests to modify their work schedules so they could observe the Sabbath each week. The nurses were Jewish, except for one who is a Seventh Day Adventist.
Managers made no effort to accommodate the requests other than to authorize the nurses to attempt to swap their shifts with co-workers, the settlement shows.
“Protecting the religious rights of all New Yorkers is an important priority of my office,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Our society honors the balance of a person’s religious commitments with his or her responsibilities in the workplace, and the law protects these rights. We are pleased that HHC and Jacobi have taken these critical steps to improve upon, and institutionalize, necessary religious accommodation policies to ensure a proper balance for all of their employees.”
After the Attorney General’s Office began a formal investigation into religious observance practices, HHC and Jacobi agreed to make across-the-board changes in order to amicably resolve this matter. The settlement requires all hospitals and medical facilities within the HHC network, including Jacobi, to implement a uniform policy on the review and granting of religious accommodations requests, conduct regular training on that policy and the law, and develop an internal complaint system. Additionally, Jacobi will regularly report to the Attorney General on the implementation of these procedures.
In November 2011, Attorney General Schneiderman launched the Religious Rights Initiative, which is dedicated to combating religious discrimination, investigating religious freedom violations and ensuring that anti-discrimination laws are aggressively enforced. The Religious Rights Initiative targets faith-based discrimination and violations of religious rights through public education, outreach and law enforcement, including litigation.
Today’s settlement was hailed by leaders of the faith community.
Ron Meier, New York Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “The right to observe one’s faith is a fundamental one, and requires protection. We commend the New York State Attorney General for advancing the rights of religious observers in the workplace.”
Todd R. McFarland, Associate General Counsel, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said, “It is reassuring to know that the religious rights of all are safeguarded in the State of New York. People should not have to choose between observing their faith and securing their livelihood. We take comfort in knowing that the Attorney General recognizes and protects the rights of religious persons.”
The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Allegra Chapman, and was previously also handled by former Assistant Attorney General Kayla Gassmann, under the supervision of Civil Rights Bureau Chief Kristen Clarke, Chief Counsel for Civil Rights Spencer Freedman, and Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Janet Sabel, with the assistance of Alyson Spindell, Director of Community Affairs and Engagement for Religious Rights.