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Post date: January 22 2001

Hair Salon Settles Discrimination Charge

State Attorney General Spitzer announced that he has reached a settlement with a New York hair salon that fired an employee for wearing a yarmulke.

Last October, Eliezer Katanov, a Russian immigrant who lives in Rego Park, was let go by Jean Louis David's 37th street salon after he began wearing a yarmulke at work. Shortly thereafter, he filed a complaint with the Attorney General's office. Katanov had worked for the company as a barber since 1996.

Under the settlement, employees of the chain will be permitted to wear yarmulkes and Jean Louis David will take steps to ensure that its workers are permitted to observe the Sabbath.

"People should not be forced to choose between practicing their religion and earning a paycheck," said Spitzer. "People like Mr. Katanov come to our country so that they can practice their religion without fear of retribution- that's one of the basic tenets of our democracy."

Under the settlement Jean Louis David-

  • Will not ask prospective employees whether they are available to work on Saturdays;

  • Will attempt to place Sabbath observant employees in a store that is not open on Saturdays, or in a location which is slower on Saturdays than weekdays;
  • Will not claim an "economic hardship" exemption from religious accommodation requirements unless 20% or more of their employees have requested not to work on Saturday for religious reasons;

  • Will implement a company-wide equal employment opportunity program that includes training for all employees on the topic of religious accommodation;

  • Will advertise the availability of positions in publications designed to reach Russian Jewish applicants with the ads noting that the jobs do not require working on Saturday.

In response to the settlement, Katanov said, "I want to thank the Attorney General and his staff for making this case a priority, and for reaching a settlement that will protect employees in the future. I felt this was an important case, not only for myself but for all workers who should feel free to be able to practice their religion."

Jean Louis David has ten stores and nearly 200 employees in New York City. In addition to Katanov, three other employees complained to the Attorney General about religious accommodation issues.

Spitzer commended J.L.D. for working cooperatively with his office to reach the settlement.

David Zwiebel, the Director of Government Affairs for Agudath of Israel America commended the settlement saying, "This is not the first time that A.G. Spitzer and his staff have used the power of his office to uphold the rights of Sabbath observers and other religious employees.

"The Attorney General is emerging as a true champion for the rights of religious employees, which is welcome news to the many New Yorkers of faith for whom religious practice is an essential part of their lives."

Dennis Rapps of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs added, "We are grateful that once again, Attorney General Spitzer recognized the significance of this issue and he should be applauded for his prompt actions.

"We hope that the message conveyed by his actions -- that discrimination based on religious practices and beliefs will not be tolerated -- will not be lost on New York employers."

Spitzer noted that last year he settled a major religious freedom in the workplace claim with Sears Roebuck. As a result of the agreement, Sears changed its hiring practices and scheduling requirements for its repair technicians who observe the Sabbath, including Orthodox Jews and Seventh-day Adventists.