Jewish Employees and Students
Notes for Employers
Jewish employees are entitled to a fair go like everyone else
For how long?
The Jewish Sabbath
What to expect from the Jewish employee
The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies
In New South Wales many types of discrimination are against the law. The laws dealing with discrimination help give everyone in New South Wales an equal opportunity or a 'fair go'.
It is generally against the law to discriminate against or harass job applicants, employees, or those you provide services or goods to, on the basis of their (or any of their relatives', friends' or colleagues') ethno-religious origin. This protects a Jewish person's ethnic-religious background. Discrimination means treating someone unfairly because they happen to belong to a particular group of people, such as the Jewish people.
The same law also protects against discrimination in the areas of education (refusing to accept applications for admission as students, terms of admission, denying students or limiting their access to a benefit, expelling students or subjecting them to a detriment) and also applies to rights to accommodation and to participate in registered clubs.
Jewish employees from time to time experience discrimination because they are Jews or because they observe the practices of the Jewish religion.
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Often Jewish employees experience discrimination when applying for leave.
A request for leave arises from a genuine and conscientious wish to observe a Jewish Holy Day - which applies to the weekly Sabbath and the Festivals. There is, in Jewish Law, a prohibition on 'work' on such days. Jewish traditional interpretation of the word 'work' includes any kind of creative activity: writing, spending or handling money, operating equipment (even telephone), travelling (other than on foot), engaging in commercial transactions and many other activities which may not be assumed to be 'work' in ordinary parlance. Indeed, Judaism is unique in this "injunction" on work on Holy Days.
There is no provision in Jewish Law for a 'dispensation' to be given by a rabbi from these restrictions and obligations; but every individual Jew is free to decide on his or her own level of observance.
If a request for time off is made by an individual Jew, it should be regarded as a genuine and conscientious wish to observe a Holy Day.
Jewish Holy Days always commence immediately before dusk and terminate at nightfall the following day - a 25-hour period. If there are two consecutive Holy Days, as indicated on the calendar, the laws continue over both days, terminating at nightfall on the second day.
Employers receiving applications for leave of absence are requested to note that Jews will want to reach home in good time to prepare for the Holy Day.
For Yom Kippur, a 25-hour fast, usually occurring in late September or October, it is imperative that time be allowed for a full meal to be taken at home immediately before the Festival commences. Indeed, the two days of Rosh Hashanah and the day of Yom Kippur have a special significance for all Jews, regardless of their level of observance at other times.
Shabbat (the original Hebrew word for Sabbath) is the weekly day of rest, commencing at dusk on Friday and terminating Saturday at nightfall.
Observant Jews will wish to reach home in good time to welcome the Sabbath religiously, and in the winter months this could well mean leaving work, school or college quite early on Friday afternoons.
Times of the commencement of Shabbat vary according to local sunset times and are published in the Jewish Press.
Jews - whether as employees, students, pupils or teachers - do not expect "special treatment" without offering something in return. Being a team player and giving a fair go to your mates are as much a part of the Jewish ethos as they are a part of the Australian way of life.
Most Jews will take leave for their Holydays as part of their annual leave entitlement or enter into swapping or other reciprocal arrangements and agreements, including offering to work on Sundays or national holidays.
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An employer, a supervisor and workmates are not to harass a Jewish employee at work. The employer must do its best to make sure that there is no harassment in the workplace. It does not matter if the Jewish employee is permanent, full-time, part-time or casual.
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If either discrimination or harassment occurs, the employee should courteously, respectfully but firmly complain and ask that it be stopped by the employer.
If the employer does not stop the harassment, or treats the employee unfairly for having complained, the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board can assist.
The NSW Anti-Discrimination Board administers the law in NSW, and officers of the Board are skilled at helping resolve discrimination issues.
Confidentiality can be expected in the handling of discrimination complaints. If the complaint is urgent (e.g. the employee is about to lose a job) the Anti-Discrimination Board should be telephoned and faxed. The fax should be marked 'urgent' at the top. The Board gives priority to these types of urgent complaints.
Most complaints are conciliated. A few proceed to the Equal Opportunity Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of NSW.
The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies is always available to help and advise in cases of difficulty.
The Board of Deputies is actively engaged in working against racial discrimination, and has excellent relations with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
The Stockholm International Forum - Combating Intolerance
Racial Discrimination Act 1975
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