BA stop Jewish worker from observing sabbath by making him work Saturdays

London, England - British Airways has been accused of forcing a Jewish employee to work on his religion's holy day of rest.

Customer service agent Daniel Rosenthal claims he was immediately disciplined by the airline when he failed to turn up on a Saturday, observed in Judaism as the Sabbath.

Religious leaders yesterday rounded on the firm which was accused of being "antiquarian" and "anti-religious" in its treatment of the baggage handler.

The row is the latest in a damaging series of controversial decisions on religious practises by the airline.

Last year the company received widespread condemnation when it was accused of ignoring the nation's Christian heritage by refusing to let an employee wear a cross.

Then earlier this year a Hindu woman was been sacked from her job at a British Airways VIP lounge for wearing a tiny nose stud which she said was integral to her religious beliefs.

In the latest row, Mr Rosenthal says he has been forced to use annual leave days to adhere to his faith and had to offer to work New Year's Eve as a trade-off.

He said BA had given him permission to have Saturdays off through unpaid leave and rostering for the first 18 months that he worked at the airport as a baggage processor.

But BA changed their stance when he was transferred to the passenger services unit at Terminal Four in December last year.

They demanded he stopped observing Saturday as a religious day and go to work, he said.

On the first Saturday he was due to work, he failed to turn up in an attempt to underline his objections.

Despite BA practice being to discipline staff after two "no shows", Mr Rosenthal said he was dealt with immediately after his first absence.

Yesterday religious groups condemned BA, which has already been taken to court by Nadia Eweida after they banned her from wearing a small silver cross round her neck.

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, said: "I am very sad that British Airways is taking this attitude. "Jews are a significant and welcome section of British society. The Sabbath means far more to Jews than Sunday means for the Christian.

"It seems that BA has learned nothing from the criticism it received following its treatment of the Christian who was disciplined for wearing a cross.

"If BA cannot find ways to be inclusive it will not reflect the values of Britishness that our nation is noted for."

The London Beth Din, the religious court of the Chief Rabbi, sent him a letter of support.

It read: "We find it extraordinary that your employers are not prepared to respect your genuine and conscientious wish to continue observing our religion.

"For an employer of the size and standing of BA, we cannot see how they could justify not accommodating your religious needs."

Dr Michael Schluter, chairman of the Keep Sunday Special Campaign, said: "It seems extraordinary that in the twenty-first century of high-tech rostering capability BA insist on practising antiquarian, anti-religious employment practises of this kind." Mr Rosenthal is being represented in his grievance against the company by human rights lawyer, Paul Diamond, who is also acting for Miss Eweida.

Last night a spokesman for BA insisted the company worked hard to respect employees' religious beliefs in the work place.

In a statement he said: "We employ 45,000 people and we do everything we can to allow for individual circumstances.

"We have a rich community of staff representing all faith groups."

He continued: "There are some roles in the airline which require weekend working because many of our passengers like to fly on weekends.

"We respect Mr Rosenthal's religion and his desire to observe the Sabbath and religious holidays

"Since March he has not worked any Saturdays while we looked into a grievance he raised about this.

"Mr Rosenthal is a valued member of staff and his managers - with the co-operation of other colleagues who have swapped their shifts - have always tried to enable him to get Saturdays off. "Last year Mr Rosenthal chose to move into a role that requires weekend working.

"If he chooses to stay in this job he will sometimes have to work on Saturdays.

"But in the meantime we have offered to sit down with him again and find another job.

"We have other jobs in the airline that are weekdays only and in some roles there is the chance to work flexitime."

Speaking during a break on his shift yesterday, Daniel Rosenthal said: "I have a covenant with God to maintain the tenants of our faith.

"[BA] were in a position to accomodate me for 18 months and for no apparent reason they refused to continue to allow me time off on the grounds of religion.

"I feel I have been a victim of religious discrimination and I feel that the airline has pulled the carpet from beneath my feet and not allowed me to practice what I beleive and stand for.

"There is no further grace period with Saturdays.

"My objective is not to be treated unfavourably on the grounds of my religion."