A religious Jew employed by British Airways at Heathrow Airport as a customer service agent is being disciplined by the company for wanting to observe the sabbath.
Daniel Rosenthal, from north London, began working for BA in May 2005 as a “Ramp Agent” processing baggage.
His wishes to observe Saturday as a day of sabbath rest were granted during this time by the company.
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But he is now being disciplined after British Airways changed their stance and demanded he start working Saturdays.
Mr Rosenthal refused – failing to turn up on the first Saturday he was rostered to work.
A three month period of grace has now ended and the company are bringing matters to a head just as Christmas approaches.
The row is just the latest example of BA initiating disciplinary proceedings because of their employee’s religious beliefs.
Earlier this year, the airline gave in to demands to allow its Christian staff to wear religious symbols after a check-in worker was prevented from wearing a cross to work.
Nadia Eweida was suspended after being told by a supervisor that she could not wear a cross and chain over her uniform.
The decision to reverse this policy is a remarkable climbdown for BA, which had initially insisted that there could be no change to its uniform rules.
Mr Rosenthal is being represented in his grievance against the company by leading human rights lawyer Paul Diamond who is also acting on behalf of Eweida.
Commenting, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, said: “I am very sad that British Airways is taking this attitude. Jews are a significant and welcome section of British society. The Sabbath means far more to Jews than Sunday means for the Christian.
“It seems that BA has learned nothing from the criticism it received following its treatment of the Christian who was disciplined for wearing a cross! If BA cannot find ways to be inclusive it will not reflect the values of Britishness that our nation is noted for.”
According to Mr Rosenthal, for the first 18 months he worked for British Airways, the company helped him manage his Jewish religious obligation to observe Saturday as the Sabbath, through rostering and unpaid leave days.
But in December 2006 Mr Rosenthal was transferred to the Passenger Services Unit at Terminal 4. British Airways then demanded that he stopped observing Saturday as the Sabbath and work it like any other day.
To underline his religious objections, he failed to attend work on the first Saturday he was mandated to work.
Mr Rosenthal says he was immediately disciplined in a heavy handed way.
It is practise in BA to discipline staff after two “no shows” – but so seriously does BA regard the “offence” of religious observance, he was immediately disciplined for a “flagrant disregard” of a management order.
As a consequence of British Airways bringing matters to a head, Mr Rosenthal has had to use leave days to practise his faith, even trading a Saturday off by offering to work New Year’s Eve.
In a letter of support, the London Beth Din wrote to Mr Rosenthal, saying:
“We find it extraordinary that your employers are not prepared to respect your genuine and conscientious wish to continue observing our religion. For an employer of the size and standing of BA, we cannot see how they could justify not accomodating your religious needs.”
Commenting on the case, Dr Michael Schluter, founder and Chairman of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, said:
“It seems extraordinary to us that in the twenty-first century of high-tech rostering capability BA insist on practising antiquarian, anti-religious employment practises of this kind.”