Thursday, November 19, 2009

So, I Guess Religious Protections In the Workplace are Bad...

VIN has a story about four women who are suing B&H Photo. The women are alleging that they were denied promotion opportunities for "religious reasons."

I don't want to comment on the specifics of the suit because, frankly, I have no idea what went down. I don't know if the suit truly has merit or not.

What I find interesting (and appalling) are some of the comments on the VIN story. There are those who are defending B&H based on rules of tznius. Others maintain that a frum company should be able to hire only Jews. Among the comments:

So a yid who wants to have a business where he can be shomer torah umitzvos can't do it. He must hire women, he must give benefits to gay partners, soon they will claim he discriminates because he doesn't allow the employees to work on Shabes and Yomtov.

let us create business for our people, what's wrong with that, is it too much common sense?

Why is not allowing woman because of religious reasons wrong? we don't discriminate because of "hate" it's because of "moral values".

What I find ironic about all this is that these people would probably be the first ones screaming "discrimination" if they applied for a job and were turned down for "religious reasons." Imagine the (rightful) hue and cry if they were turned down for a job because the owner felt it was "moral" to provide jobs to his fellow Baptists. Or imagine the story that would come about if a MO seforim store owner only provided jobs or promotions to those who were openly Zionist?

I find it just mind-boggling that people can so quickly forget that the laws that protect others from discrimination based on solely religious grounds protect them as well. Everyone loves to tell over the stories about how Jews were hard pressed to keep Shabbos 100 years ago because jobs required them to work on Saturdays. I can't count the number of times I heard stories of Jews who had to find new jobs every week because they would be fired weekly for refusing to show up on Saturday. We've become so "spoiled" by our ability to take off for Yom Tov and leave early on Fridays in the winter and our right to not be discriminated against that we take those freedoms for granted. Perhaps some people need to be reminded that the same laws that protect their ability to maintain both religious practice and the ability to earn a livelihood protect others as well. At the very least the person who made the following comment should be reminded of history.

We don't need anti-discrimination laws, and they have done us far more harm than help. All we need is for the LAW to treat everyone equally, and to leave people alone to do as they please.

Yeah, that's what we need... a throwback to the world where employees have no protection for their religious beliefs at all.

The Wolf

21 comments:

SubWife said...

Ugh. Sometimes people are just stupid. I, for one, am very grateful for these laws, being an Orthodox Jew and a woman.

Drew said...

"We don't need anti-discrimination laws, and they have done us far more harm than help. All we need is for the LAW to treat everyone equally, and to leave people alone to do as they please."

Surely people being treated equally regardless of religion, skin colour, ethnicity, disability, gender, etc., is accomplished legally by anti-discrimination laws? Perhaps I'm missing something but it sounds like that person hasn't thought things out very well.

SJ said...

read my blog. XD

G*3 said...

At least for every ignorant or hateful comment, there are a few from teh side of sanity.

It seems there are some people out there whose ideas of the world outside the frum community are made entirely of strawmen.

Dave said...

Comments at VIN and YWN are exhibits A and B about the myth of Jewish intellectual superiority.

As far as I can tell, we have just as many idiots as everyone else.

squeak said...

" Dave said...
Comments at VIN and YWN are exhibits A and B about the myth of Jewish intellectual superiority.

As far as I can tell, we have just as many idiots as everyone else."

It's a myth? I thought it has been statistically proven.

Your second statement is still true, despite this.

Dave said...

IQ testing is really really dodgy, historically speaking.

And given that the same ethnic groups can have markedly significant shifts in a generation (with better nutrition and access to education), claims of genetic superiority seem weak to me.

Holy Hyrax said...

I think there is some truth to what they say in that anti-descriminatory laws have gone too far in cases. I know in our school, the principal is not allowed to write on ads that she is looking for a "jewish" teacher. The school can get sued. I certainly can't advertise that I prefer a male employee over a female or else I get sued too.

Dave said...

I'm failing to see how this is bad.

BrooklynWolf said...

Dave,

I was being sarcastic. Sorry if it didn't come across clearly.

The wolf

Dave said...

I was replying to HH.

Yes, you can't prefer a male over a female employee, how is this bad?

Schools preferring Jewish teachers? Depends on how they are legally established. Religious organizations can discriminate on the basis of religion for their non-secular components. That is to say, the Church can require Priests to be Catholic, but it cannot require the janitor of an affiliated Catholic Charity to be Catholic.

Anonymous said...

Dave -

Exactly. And I'm sure B&H can find or create some legitimate business need for keeping women off the sales floor to make their policy legal. For example, they could open two different stores - one for men and one for women, which would make employee gender discrimination a business related need. IANAL.

But since they don't have a legit business need to discriminate, they can't.

Holy Hyrax said...

>Yes, you can't prefer a male over a female employee, how is this bad?

Well, if you are pro liberty, then one would think you should have a right to hire who ever you want since its a private business. If I don't want a woman working with me, I should have a right to say so. I mean, why would someone want to work with someone else where they are not wanted....let alone feel they are owed some sort of compensation for that.

Dave said...

This is only true if you have decided that the government has no place in enforcing public policies and rather only enforcing private contracts.

Of course, if you've gone that far, you could then ask, why should the government have a role in enforcing private agreements either?

tesyaa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

@ Holy Hyrax:
I'm a long time female customer of B&H, and until a week ago today had no women on the floor selling. Three days after that, the lawsuit was filed. So, in light of your comment, I shall take my considerable business elsewhere, and I shall encourage others to do so, too.I mean, if I'm not good enough to work there because I am a woman, I guess my money isn't good enough because I am a woman, either.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Okay, while I agree that discrimination is bad, I would like to play devil's advocate:

What about freedom of association? If one owns a private business, why can't one decide who can work for one? If one is a petty, hateful racist, then forcing one to associate with an employee one can't stand isn't going to change one's views. It might make one even more resentful - "look, the government is focring me to work with that such-and-such!" After all, life is not an after-school special where the villified minority guy miraculously saves the kid of the racist from being hit by a bus, causing him to rethink his views and become all tolerant.

If B&H (does it really stand for Baruch Hashem?) is forced to hire women and put them on the sales floor, how is that going to make things better? Are the other employees, most of them xenophobic chasidim, going to chum around with her, or even say "good morning"? Does she have any chance of a promotion? Will the government legislate that not only does the store have to hire women but that it has to be nice to them? How does that accomplish anything?

In summary: where is boundary between freedom of association and non-discrimination?

Dave said...

They can be as discriminatory as they like -- so long as it does not affect their actions in the workplace.

If they don't want to associate with women outside of the workplace, they can.

If they want to hate women inside or outside of the work place, they can, so long as they do not act on such hatred inside the workplace.

I am reminded of an old story. A rich man goes to the Rabbi, and says that he isn't going to donate the money he had planned because he had realized he was doing it to glorify himself, and not because he cared about the poor. The Rabbi said, "Give anyway. The poor won't care why."

Dave said...

((FYI: The banner at the top of this page is serving what looks to be an ad for a Catholic group))

Moshe said...

What I find ironic about all this is that these people would probably be the first ones screaming "discrimination" if they applied for a job and were turned down for "religious reasons."

You assume these people work and work in not Jewish places. If there was news about a Jewish guy getting turned down, I wouldn't be surprised if there would be comments about how it's a sign from Hashem that the guy should go learn or go work for Jews.

Knitter of shiny things said...

I feel like this whole thing could have been avoided very easily, at least in theory.

If B&H is so insistent on not having women on the sales floor, and if the people in sales make way more than the cashiers, and if the cashiers are having trouble supporting themselves and their families on $9/hr, (which really is not a lot of money, especially in Manhattan) why not just pay the cashiers a decent wage? It probably isn't the ideal solution, but it would mean that the women who can't work in sales would be paid comparably, and then B&H could continue to have a "tzenuah" environment.

Of course, this doesn't solve the problem of B&H disproportionately hiring males over females, but it would at least be a step in the right direction. (Maybe)