HAZLET — Advance Auto Parts must pay a former employee $10,000 because it cut a Jewish worker's hours after he requested time off for the Sabbath.

Part-time worker Ron Michael Lerner had alleged in a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights that a Hazlet Advance location failed to accomodate his religious beliefs when it wouldn't accomodate his schedule. Advance has about 100 locations throughout New Jersey.

Lerner said he was scheduled for fewer shifts when he told his supervisors he couldn't work on Jewish holidays, including the Sabbath, according to an announcement by Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. The Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday evening and continues through the daylight hours Saturday.

 

“The promise of religious freedom means, at a minimum, that our fellow citizens should not have to choose between their faith and supporting their families," Division on Civil Rights Director Craig Sashihara. "In New Jersey, employers are required to accommodate the sincerely held religious practices of their employees, unless doing so would cause an undue hardship."

An agreement between Advance and the state also calls for the company to implement new anti-discrimination and policies for handling religious accommodation requests, Porrino said.

“This case should serve as a reminder to employers across New Jersey that being sensitive to the religious beliefs and observances of employees is not only the right thing to do. It is the law,"  Porrino said.

In the announcement from  Porrino's and Sashihara's offices, they noted New Jersey law defines 'undue hardship' for purposes of religious accommodation as an “accommodation requiring unreasonable expense or difficulty, unreasonable interference with the safe or efficient operation of the workplace, a violation of a bona fide seniority system, or a violation of any provision of a collective bargaining agreement.”

But in Advance's case, they said, the company didn't make a "good faith" attempt to deal with Lerner's scheduling needs. Instead, it put him on just one shift per week — Sundays only — when he'd previously been working three to four.

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