Jewish hairdresser fired by Jewish boss for working on Shabbat had religious rights violated, court rules


MONTREAL (JTA) — A Jewish hairdresser who got fired for refusing — against the orders of his Jewish boss — to take Shabbat off was awarded nearly $10,000 by a Quebec court for having his religious rights violated.

The Quebec Human Rights Tribunal on Thursday ordered the payment by former salon owner Iris Grassy two years after she failed to compensate hairstylist Richard Zilberg, 54, $15,000 in damages recommended by the Quebec Human Rights Commission. The Commission has the power to recommend but not order damage awards.

“After five years, I finally obtained justice,” Zilberg said following the ruling.

“This judgment is a reminder that an employer cannot impose different working conditions on an employee on the basis of his or her religion,” Commission President Tamara Thermitus said in a statement on Thursday.


Zilberg had worked for the salon since 2011 and Saturday was usually its busiest day, but Grassy told Zilberg in 2012 to stop coming in on Saturdays. He refused and was fired.

The ruling may be only a moral victory for Zilberg, according to Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations, which helped Zilberg in his initial complaint, since he might have to seek execution of the ruling by requesting a seizure of Grassy’s assets.

“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 two years ago following the recommendation of the Quebec Human Rights Commission. “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.”

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