Judges reject appeal from NJ bus driver who sought Sunday off. A federal court ruling involving a New Jersey bus driver could have troubling implications for Jewish workers who observe the Sabbath and other holy days, a Jewish legal scholar warned.
On July 16, a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld NJ Transit’s decision to fire a born-again-Christian bus driver who refused to work on Sundays.
The court agreed that granting the driver’s request for Sundays off “would have placed an undue hardship” on the transit agency.
Marc Stern, associate general counsel for legal advocacy at the American Jewish Committee, said the ruling muddied the waters for Jewish job applicants who do not work on Shabbat.
“It is a huge problem for observant Jews,” said Stern.
At the center of the case is Roger Fouche (pronounced Foo-shay), a Hainesport resident. Fouche was a part-time bus driver for NJ Transit who, after accepting a full-time position, sought to be excused from driving on Sundays, the Christian Sabbath.
In March 2008, three months after taking the full-time job with the state-run transportation company, he was dismissed.
Fouche sued NJ Transit in Federal District Court in Newark, arguing his firing was illegal under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The trial court rejected his claim.
Last month, the appeals court upheld that ruling. It accepted NJ Transit’s assertion that Fouche knew about the Sunday assignments when he took the job and that allowing him the day off would have breached the seniority provision of the union’s collective bargaining agreement.
“Fouche’s good faith in taking a full-time position with New Jersey Transit is questionable because when he took that position he surely knew or should have known from his prior part-time employment with New Jersey Transit that its drivers ordinarily are sometimes assigned Sunday driving duties,” the judges ruled.
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