In dispute between Jews, Montreal salon owner fined for barring hairdresser from Shabbat work

Julie Wiener

MONTREAL (JTA) — A Quebec human rights body has supported a Jewish hairdresser’s complaint that he was fired from his job for refusing — against the orders of his Jewish boss — to take Shabbat off.

The case was described as almost certainly the first time the Quebec Human Rights Commission has ruled on a religious dispute between Jews.

The human rights commission recommended that Richard Zilberg be paid $15,000 in damages for abrogating his civil right to work. His boss, beauty salon owner Iris Gressy, did not pay the fine by the deadline later in the month, so the case now goes to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, which has the status of a court.

Zilberg claims he was fired in August 2012 after Gressy told him to stop coming in on Shabbat and he refused.

“When I as a Jew am discriminated against by another Jew, to the point of losing my job, income and dignity, that is something intolerable,” Zilberg said. “I come from a long line of Jewish people and I love my faith, but it is 2015 and I can choose how I want to practice.”

Gressy says she didn’t want Zilberg working on Saturdays because he did not get along with another employee who worked that day. The salon owner describes herself as “observant” but has admitted to working on Shabbat on the rare occasion. She said any Saturday business profits go to charity.

Zilberg filed his complaint with the provincial commission in December 2012, and its ruling came early last month.

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