MTA Officials Demand Worker Provide Documentation Of Rosh Hashanah Observance

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    FILE - People wait to enter a New York City subway car on a crowded train platform in New York, New York, USA, 25 January 2018. EPA

    NEW YORK (VosIzNeias) Metropolitan Transit Authority(MTA) officials demanded that an Orthodox Jewish transit worker prove he observes Rosh Hashanah for “a religious reason” in order to get the holiday off, according to a report by the New York Daily News last week.

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    Benjamin Schaeffer, a 22-year MTA transit worker, was initially denied permission to take off for the Jewish new year. A supervisor then granted Schaeffer the holiday, but told Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 Vice President Eric Loegel that Schaffer would need to submit documentation within 5 days to prove he’d actually observed the holiday or he’d be marked as “AWOL”(Absent Without Official Leave).

    “This smacks of anti-Semitism, and is definitely anti-worker,” TWU Local 100 said in a statement. “What kind of railroad is MTA Chairman Pat Foye running?”

    Schaeffer had followed MTA regulations by asking for the day off three weeks in advance, and the MTA had granted Schaeffer the holiday in previous years without issue, according to union officials.

    But this year, a supervisor told the union there are “many employees who request to have days off for religious observance and are not granted due to the slots being full, and the high need for personnel. So in order to try to accommodate the employees and be fair, I am requesting documentation.”

    The supervisor didn’t specify the kind of documentation Schaeffer would need to submit, union officials said.

    “It’s degrading,” said Schaeffer. “I’m supposed to document my faith every year?”

    “We value and respect our employees’ religious beliefs and make every effort to accommodate requests for time off,”  MTA spokesman Christopher McKniff responded. “This request was received after all leave slots for this day and job title had been distributed, but the supervisor involved made an exception for Mr. Schaeffer and granted him the day off. This issue has been reviewed by NYCT supervision and it was confirmed that no documentation is necessary.”


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    11 Comments
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    HeshyEmes
    HeshyEmes
    4 years ago

    I think that the MTA acted correctly in asking for documentation (which would be provided by the employee’s Rabbi). Anyone can claim a day off for Religious reasons; but if the MTA is short staffed, they have the right to ask for documentation. Of course if they grant Moslems, or Christians their holidays without requesting documentation; that would be discriminatory.

    Yaakov Doe
    Yaakov Doe
    4 years ago

    I didn’t realize its been 22 years that he’s with the MTA. I can understand them questioning the need for Succos or Simchas Torah off but who in NYC is unaware that Jews observe Rosh Hashona? I doubt there are very many Jewish motermen with the MTA causing manpoweer shortages on Rosh Hashona.
    Any of our frum elected officials can provide the documentation that he was asked for.

    Voice of Reason
    Voice of Reason
    4 years ago

    This is the first time I heard of this. As much as i would love to fault the MTA and some of its administration, there is a climate in which this is occurring, and that is our fault.

    In recent past, we observed the anti-vaxx movement use junk science to support its beliefs, and then impose the risks onto the public by claiming a “religious” exemption. Of course, anyone with an IQ on the positive side of zero knows there is no such “religious” issue, and quite to the contrary. But the use of “religion” was masqueraded to provide an excuse to not fulfill responsibilities otherwise required. In this climate, there would need to be some support for the contention. I am familiar with public schools being closed on Rosh Hashanah, which might be the case in NYC. For sure, there is no school requirement to provide documentation. But the anti-vaxxers have created a climate in which the claim of “religion” cannot be accepted at face value.

    Kollelfaker
    Kollelfaker
    4 years ago

    No there something else going on here
    Firstly by federal law he’s allowed to take off don’t question others about their affiliations. Secondly he’s in titled to vacation and personal days.
    Sorry just wondering what he’s supervisors name is

    Cixelsyd Wnosanoy
    Cixelsyd Wnosanoy
    4 years ago

    Yawn…

    It is standard procedure everywhere I have worked for the past 42 years (ans a procedure I have administered for a dozen of those years at two employers) to require a showing of two elements from an employee seeking a religious accommodation:

    1. That the act in question reflects is a bonafide religious obligation…be it religious holiday observance or exemption from grooming and dress requirements; and

    2. That the requesting employee is a bonafide practicing member of the relevant religious community.

    Nachum
    Nachum
    4 years ago

    When I worked in NYC, there was never a problem, since most gentiles are aware of our holidays. However, out of town, it is a different story. Every year, I furnished a publication which our local Federation made available for employers, explaining all of the Yom Tovim, and their significance. It also went into detail about having observant employees leave earlier on Fridays, during the winter, when the days were shorter. Usually, there was no problem; the only time there was a problem, was when one would encounter an ignoramus, who had very if any contact with Jews, and had to be educated. One time, after Shiva, I had to go to my local library, where I xeroxed about 50 pages of the laws of Shiva, and left it on my Supervisor’s desk, as she questioned why I had to take so much time of. I’m sure that she didn’t read more than a few pages. When I asked her what she thought about what I left, she stated “very interesting”. Incidentally, prior to 1961, the NYC public schools were never closed for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Students had to bring in a written excused absence note from their parents, in advance. Now, there are very few Jewish teachers and students in the NYC public school system; however, the schools are still closed for those holidays.

    The_Truth
    The_Truth
    4 years ago

    Since NY & NJ public schools are closed for RH (& maybe other religious holidays too?), it is common that parents would want to take those days off work too – even some of my non Jewish Asian co-workers do. They dont claim to take it off for religious reasons, but just a vacation day. I can see it becoming a problem when there are many people in same company (especially public/government organizations) taking off, and they trying to limit absentees. I dont see what went on here a problem, but it should be a one off, or regular basis, just to have paperwork on file.

    triumphinwhitehouse
    triumphinwhitehouse
    4 years ago

    asking for proof doesn’t seem too crazy.

    Henry Jacobs
    Henry Jacobs
    4 years ago

    I am an entirely secular Jew.
    As a secular Jew I take off and do not work (I’m a Jew and belong to that Union, so to speak) so that NO ONE can point to me when a frum person wants to take off and say, “Why don’t you work. He’s Jewish and he is working.”
    I don’t work to protect YOUR right not to work; to commemorate my being a part of the Jewish People (even if you sometimes want to abrogate my rights.).

    Moishe Finklestein
    Moishe Finklestein
    4 years ago

    What kind of documentation do they expect, a signed letter from G-d?