Leading Sweepstakes Company To Make Major Changes In Disclosures

State Attorney General Spitzer announced today that his office has reached an agreement with Sears Roebuck Company under which the retailing giant will change its policy of requiring repair technicians to work on Saturdays.

Spitzer charged that the company had refused to hire Orthodox Jews and others in New York whose religion prohibits work on Saturdays. As part of a landmark settlement, however, Sears will change its hiring practices and scheduling requirements for those employees who observe the Sabbath, as well as pay compensation.

"People should not be forced to choose between worship and work," Spitzer said.

Sears has entered into a consent decree that requires it to do the following:

  • Create a work schedule for Sabbath observant repair technicians that does not include Saturdays, but does include Sundays;

  • Provide back pay and offer jobs to the initial complainants and pay their legal fees;

  • Offer binding arbitration to anyone else who comes forward within the next 90 days and claims to have experienced a similar failure by Sears to provide workplace accommodation during the last three years;

  • Offer training on religious accommodations to all Sears personnel in New York State involved in hiring and recruiting;

  • Pay the Attorney General's office $100,000 for the cost of its investigation;

  • Pay $225,000 to the American Law Institute to create written materials, a video, and a conference on employers' legal obligations to provide religious accommodation; and

  • Provide 10 scholarships (worth approximately $12,000 each) over the next two years for ten Sabbath observers to attend New York schools that teach technical repairs.

The Attorney General's investigation began last summer after Kalman Katz, an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, applied for a job as a repair technician at Sears' Brooklyn repair facility. Sears technicians repair appliances including dishwashers, washers and dryers and air conditioners.

Katz was told that all technicians must work Saturdays because it was the company's "busiest repair day." Katz, who received the highest score on Sears technical test in a two-year period, offered to work Sundays and evenings instead, but was refused. He then contacted the Attorney General's office.

Five other people had similar problems, including one who became a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and was fired after telling Sears that he could no longer work on Saturdays.

An investigation by Spitzer's office found that, in fact, Tuesday, not Saturday, was Sears' busiest repair day, and that no technician in the Brooklyn office was required to work every Saturday.

In response to the settlement, Mr. Katz said, "Someone's religion should not have any impact on whether they're hired for a job or not. Religious freedom was one of the tenets that our country was founded upon. I'm very pleased with the settlement and I want to thank the Attorney General and his staff for all of their hard work to protect the rights of workers."

Donovan Reed, who was fired after becoming a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church said, "It's important that people be able to practice their religions without fear of reprisal. I believe this case can set an important precedent, not only for those of my faith, but all faiths."

Spitzer said the settlement with Sears should be a model for companies throughout the state. "This case should send a clear message to all employers in New York that we will vigorously protect the rights of all employees in the work place."

"I want to commend Sears for working with us to come up with a creative solution that protects the religious freedom of its employees, and at the same time does not harm the company or its customers," Spitzer said.

A settlement of the case was filed today in Brooklyn Supreme Court. The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Avi Schick, Investor Protection Chief Eric Dinallo and Civil Rights Bureau Chief Andrew Celli, Jr.

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