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Bus Driver's Sabbath Ruling a Problem for Many Religious Groups

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on August 01, 2012 4:15 PM

Last month, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals released a decision in Roger Fouche v. New Jersey Transit, an appeal involving a born-again Christian bus driver who wanted his Sundays off.

Unfortunately for the bus driver, the New Jersey Transit Corporation fired him, citing that his request placed an undue burden on the company.

The driver brought suit under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.

The district court held in favor of New Jersey Transit and the Third Circuit affirmed the district court's holding.

Is it shocking that the New Jersey Transit Corporation wouldn't accommodate a bus driver's religious needs, and that the Third Circuit would uphold that decision?

Perhaps. But the case itself is a but more complex than that. The decision of the district court is unpublished and the Third Circuit's opinion is very brief, referring to the district court's opinion. We did some digging and found a little more about the legal issues in the case.

The New Jersey Transit Corporation claims that it made a good faith effort to accommodate the bus driver, Roger Fouche. The company decided to reclassify him as a part-time driver, so that he would not have to drive on Sundays.

Throw in the additional problem that the bus driver belonged to a union that had a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), and matters became more complicated.

Under the CBA, the bus drivers chose their work schedules based on seniority. If New Jersey Transit allowed Fouche to choose his hours and not work on Sundays, it would interfere with the company's longstanding, union-backed policy. This would cause legal issues and this was where the undue hardship argument came up.

This opinion isn't a concern for Christians alone. Many religious groups can be affected by this decision. With a sizeable Jewish population, the New Jersey Jewish community isn't thrilled about the implications of this decision on those who want to observe the Sabbath.

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