Parent company of Ben & Jerry’s is sued in NJ over religious discrimination
A Jewish man fired in 2019 by the North American headquarters of Unilever in Englewood Cliffs is suing for religious discrimination.
David Rosenbaum filed a lawsuit in Superior Court last week, claiming the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s was behind “outrageous acts of retaliation and anti-Semitism.”
"Unilever strongly refutes these allegations and has a zero-tolerance policy on antisemitism or any form of discrimination in the workplace," the company said in a written statement to New Jersey 101.5.
Claims of anti-Semitism
Rosenbaum, 55, says in his lawsuit that his boss rejected a request to use personal time off for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 2019.
That year, Rosh Hashanah began in the evening of Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019 and ended in the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 1. Yom Kippur began in the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 8 and ended in the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 9.
Rosenbaum did not report to work on the Monday or Tuesday of Rosh Hashanah, and emailed at least five upper-level managers on Monday, saying that “denial of time off for the Jewish holy days” was a “direct violation” of the law.
A day later, he received a text message to call one of the managers who received his email and Rosenbaum said he was fired over the phone
Rosenbaum had been employed as a manager at Unilever for over three years — his complaint, filed two years after the incident, said he never had previous issues taking off during Jewish holidays.
Israel 'boycott' connection
The lawsuit also points to the recent controversial decision by the ice cream makers to stop selling products in certain territories at the center of Israel-Palestinian tensions.
In July, Ben & Jerry’s said that it would stop selling ice cream in occupied Palestinian territories because it was “inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognized illegal occupation.”
The announcement prompted New Jersey to plan to divest $182 million in pension funds from Unilever.
In September, the state said the company’s actions qualified as a boycott of Israel, which violates a 2016 state law.
Rosenbaum’s suit said the company’s move was “further evidence of Unilever’s anti-Semitism.”
He also says that the male manager who initially rejected his PTO request for the Jewish holidays had previously sexually harassed him, which upper management did nothing about.
Rosenbaum's attorney said part of his job was to market Ben & Jerry's new flavors but he was an employee of Unilever, not Ben & Jerry's, which is not named as a defendant.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A headline in an earlier version of this story should have noted that Ben & Jerry's parent company was named as the defendant.