No Shifts on Shabbos—What are Your Legal Rights?
By Joey Aron, Esq
You have found the perfect nursing job—except it requires shifts on Shabbos. How and when should you broach the issue of your Sabbath observance? And what, if any, obligation does the employer have to accommodate you?
Sabbath observance unquestionably qualifies as a “sincere religious belief,” which means it is protected under the law. The U.S. Supreme Court stated in Thomas v. Review Board of Indiana Employment Security that, “Religious beliefs need not be acceptable, logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others in order to merit First Amendment protection,” nor may one person’s beliefs be compared to those of others of the same faith. In other words, your prospective employer may not hinge your employment terms on what other Orthodox Jewish nurses do (or do not do) when it comes to Shabbat.
Fortunately for New Yorkers , the state’s Executive Law Section 296 offers perhaps the strictest protection of religious rights in the country. Under the statute, an employee (or prospective employee) cannot be forced to violate any “sincerely held practice of his or her religion” as a term or condition of obtaining or retaining employment.
Once the employee raises the issue,
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Joey Aron, Esq, is the founding attorney of Aron Law, PLLC, a boutique law firm in Brooklyn, NY, where he focuses on Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) litigation and matters pertaining to religious discrimination.
When to Disclose Sabbath Observance During the Hiring Process
Imagine for a moment that you are at the tail end of an interview with a nurse manager, and things have been going well. There were no awkward silences, and the nurse manager even smiled and laughed a few times. You are feeling confident until the nurse manager starts explaining the culture of the unit and the demands of the job, including one 12-hour weekend shift (Saturday or Sunday) per month. The nurse manager then asks if you have any issues with the demands of the job.
As a Sabbath-observant Jew, you fear that an employer who learns about an applicant’s need for scheduling accommodations may opt to offer the position to a similarly qualified candidate to avoid the inconvenience. Do you tell the nurse manager that as an observant Jew your religious beliefs prohibit you from working for a 25-hour period between Friday night and Saturday night? Do you simply respond that you have no concerns, since that is technically not a lie because you can work every Sunday? Perhaps you think better of relying on a linguistic loophole knowing you will invariably have to disclose your immovable scheduling conflict, placing your reputation or even your job at risk.
When and whether to disclose your Sabbath observance raises ethical, practical, and legal questions whose answers are complex and situation-specific. Some of the factors to consider include ….
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By: Jack L. Newhouse, a lawyer with Virginia & Ambinder in New York representing workers in a range of employment related matters.
You Were Served With a Subpoena. Now What?
By Elliot J. Rosner, Esq.
For a nurse, or anybody who is not regularly involved in legal proceedings, it can be distressing to receive a subpoena, especially if it was “served” on you in person by a professional process server.
Some may be intimidated by the legal jargon, while others may feel defensive or that they are being accused of something. No matter your reaction, a little bit of knowledge can go a long way in navigating the process.
Here is a step-by-step guide (but not actual legal advice 😉) that can help you understand what you are dealing with and what you need to do.
Step One: Read it! Yes, really. You do not need to have gone to law school to be able to pick out the most relevant pieces of information contained in the subpoena.
First of all, who sent the subpoena? If it is signed by a judge, it is a court order and can have more force than if it is sent by a lawyer representing one of the parties in the lawsuit. For example, if it is from a lawyer, it may be possible for the other party, or you, to stop the subpoena (“quash” it, in lawyer-speak) if there is a legal basis to do so. If it is signed by the judge, that option likely won’t exist.
Next, is the subpoena asking for documents, for your testimony, or both? For those who speak Latin, the heading on the subpoena may reveal the answer (“subpoena duces tecum”), but for the rest of us, there should be instructions in English in the middle that state what exactly they are asking of you. That will help you wrap your head around exactly what you are in for.
If the subpoena is seeking your testimony, you will want to know whether it is for a trial or a deposition (more below on the differences between the two). An easy way to tell is by checking the location where you are being asked to appear—if it is at a courthouse, that is a pretty good sign it is for a trial or hearing in a courtroom. If it is at an attorney’s office, it is probably a deposition, and there is likely more leeway when it comes to rescheduling if the date on the subpoena does not work for you (which may not be the case for a trial).
Other important information can be gleaned from the subpoena, namely, what is this all about? You may recognize a name in the “caption” of the case right away, or after a quick online search. If not, you may find clues in the list of documents being requested from you. If you got this subpoena, it means somebody thinks you have firsthand knowledge of something relevant to that case.
This can be true in many types of cases beyond the dreaded malpractice case. Nurses or other medical professionals may be important witnesses in cases relating to child custody or neglect, probate or guardianship disputes where someone’s mental capacity is being challenged, criminal matters, and all kinds of civil or commercial litigation.
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About the Author:
Elliot J. Rosner, Esq. is an attorney at Offit Kurman whose practice includes commercial litigation and family law in New York and New Jersey. He also sometimes provides pro bono legal advice to his wife, Shevi, the President of OJNA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Office for Civil Rights. (2020, November 2). HIPAA for individuals: Court orders and subpoenas. HHS.gov. https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/court-orders-subpoenas/index.html.