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Muslim bus drivers threaten to walk off the job after MTA denies last-minute Eid al-Fitr request

By Douglas Lipsky

In a recent and significant incident that has sparked widespread attention, eight Muslim bus drivers in Brooklyn were denied time off to observe Eid al-Fitr, leading to a heated dispute with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). This incident is a stark reminder of the importance of religious accommodations under federal and New York City law.

The Incident: Denied Time Off for Eid al-Fitr

The dispute arose when eight Muslim bus drivers employed at the MTA’s Jackie Gleason Bus Depot in Sunset Park requested time off to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan.

Despite making their request on Friday for the following Wednesday, the MTA denied the time off due to operational needs and the state’s Taylor Law, which prohibits public employees from striking. This denial, coupled with a threat of disciplinary action for unauthorized absence, underscored a tension between religious observance and workplace obligations, prompting the bus drivers to consider walking off the job with the encouragement of a transit union officer.

What is a Religious Accommodation?

Religious accommodation is about adjusting the work environment to enable employees to practice religion. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for religious practices under federal law, particularly Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and New York City Human Rights Law. These accommodations can take various forms, including:

  • Time off for religious observances and holidays.
  • Flexibility in dress code requirements to accommodate religious dress.
  • Adjustments to work schedules for religious practices.

Employers are expected to make a good-faith effort to accommodate religious needs, and employees should promptly notify their employers of their needs. The balance between accommodating religious practices and maintaining business operations is central to applying these laws.

Why This Matters

The MTA bus driver story highlights the urgent need for workers to protect their rights to religious accommodation. It highlights the potential for conflict between employer operational needs and employee religious rights, emphasizing the crucial role of effectively understanding and navigating these laws. 

This matter also underscores the need for diligent legal support to navigate employment law’s complexities and advocate for the rightful accommodations of religious practices in the workplace.

How Lipsky Lowe Can Help

At Lipsky Lowe, we are committed to ensuring that no employee has to compromise their religious beliefs for their job. As a leading employment law firm in New York City, we are here to guide and represent individuals facing religious discrimination or denial of accommodations in the workplace. Whether through negotiation or litigation, we provide a secure platform for all employees to practice their religion without fear of repercussions or discrimination

New York City Religious Discrimination Lawyers

The denial of Eid al-Fitr time off for MTA bus drivers is an unfortunate reminder of the ongoing struggle against discrimination in the workplace. At Lipsky Lowe, we are well-prepared to defend your rights to observe your religious practices freely. If you believe your rights to religious accommodation have been violated, contact us today. Together, let’s strive for a workplace that respects and accommodates the diverse religious beliefs of all employees.

About the Author
Douglas Lipsky is a co-founding partner of Lipsky Lowe LLP. He has extensive experience in all areas of employment law, including discrimination, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, wrongful discharge, breach of contract, unpaid overtime, and unpaid tips. He also represents clients in complex wage and hour claims, including collective actions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and class actions under the laws of many different states. If you have questions about this article, contact Douglas today.