Quebec Court Fines Jewish Salon Owner for Forcing Jewish Hairdresser to Take the Sabbath Off

God gave us Shabbat for us to rest, but God also gave us free will, so that we can make our own decisions. And now, one Jew has decided that he’d like to spend his Shabbat working, because it’s his God-given right. Or, at the very least, his court-ordered right.

Richard Zilber, a hairstylist from Montreal, sued his Jewish employer, Iris Gressy, after she refused to let him work on Saturdays, and fired him when he complained. And now, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal says she owes Zilber $12,500 in damages because employers aren’t permitted to impose their religious values on their employees, even if these values are all about taking a day off.

But working on Shabbat, Zilber said, was very much an expression of his Jewish identity. It was his “Jewish pride,” he told the Canadian Jewish News, that encouraged him to stand up for his rights. “A Jew has zero-tolerance for discrimination,” he said, “even if it’s among your own people.”

Zilber wanted to work on Saturdays, he added, because it is the busiest day of the week for the salon and because he wanted to build up his clientele. But Gessy implemented a new policy dictating that Saturdays would be a mandatory day off for her Jewish employees. Zilber mentioned the policy to a client some months later, and was then fired soon after for the “breach of confidentiality.”

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