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October 1, 2019 11:09 am

MTA Jewish Worker Asked to Prove He Observes Rosh Hashanah to Get Time Off

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A subway train in Manhattan. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

An Orthodox Jewish MTA transit worker was ordered to prove he celebrated Rosh Hashanah for “a religious reason” in order for him to get the holiday off, union officials said on Friday.

Benjamin Schaeffer, who has been an MTA transit worker for 22 years, was initially denied permission to take off for the Jewish holiday. He was then granted the leave but also told he would have to submit documentation within five days to prove he observed the holiday, or he would be marked as “AWOL.”
“This smacks of antisemitism, and is definitely anti-worker,” the Transport Workers Union Local 100 said in a statement.

The MTA had granted Schaeffer the holiday off in previous years without any issues and the MTA worker followed regulations by asking for the time off three weeks in advance, according to the union

. A supervisor told the union that this year there were “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 kind of documentation Schaeffer needed was not specified, the union said.

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