MTA officials demanded an Orthodox Jewish transit worker prove he observes Rosh Hashanah for “a religious reason” in order to get the holiday off, union officials said Friday.
Benjamin Schaeffer, a 22-year MTA transit worker, was initially denied permission to take off for the Jewish new year, according to Transport Workers Union Local 100.
A supervisor then granted Schaeffer the holiday, but told TWU Local 100 veep 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.”
“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 followed MTA regulations by asking for the day off three weeks in advance, and the MTA had granted Schaeffer the holiday every year prior without issue, union reps said.
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 employee’s 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," said MTA spokesman Christopher McKniff. "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.”