Jewish hairdresser who was fired over Sabbath spat wins legal case

Jewish hairdresser who was fired over Sabbath spat wins legal case

MONTREAL — A Jewish hairdresser in Montreal who was not allowed to work on Saturdays and was eventually fired has won a discrimination case against his former employer.

A Quebec judge has ordered Iris Gressy, who is also Jewish, as well as a numbered company to pay Richard Zilberg a total of $12,500.

He said the decision to forbid Zilberg to work on the Sabbath because he is Jewish violates his right to freedom of conscience and religion.

Zilberg, who is now 54, was hired at the Spa Orazen salon in October 2011 and worked six days a week, including Saturday, the busiest day of the week.

Court documents state Gressy told Zilberg in July 2012 he would no longer come in on Saturdays, in accordance with her new policy of not allowing her Jewish employees to work that day. She also told him to not tell clients why he was no longer available Saturdays.

Gressy fired Zilberg the following month after she learned he had told a client of the salon that his employer had prohibited him from coming in on Saturdays because of his faith.

She accused him of breaching confidentiality.

In an interview Thursday, Zilberg said he was very happy with the ruling, even though he was awarded less money than sought on his behalf by Quebec’s human rights commission.

“It’s been almost five years and I’ve had to have a lot of patience to get through this,” he said. “But I stand by my beliefs and what I believe in.

“In the Jewish philosophy, in the Jewish faith, there is zero tolerance for discrimination, even if it is amongst ourselves. Even if it’s a Jew against another Jew.”

In his judgment, Judge Yvan Nolet of the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal ruled that Gressy’s decision to prohibit Zilberg from working the Sabbath violated his right to equality in employment due to his religion.

“The dismissal of Mr. Zilberg is based, on part, on religious grounds,” Nolet wrote.

“The decision to forbid Mr.Zilberg to work on the Sabbath because he is Jewish violates his right to freedom of conscience and religion as well as to the safeguard of his dignity and the respect of his private life.”

Zilberg was awarded $6,006 in material damages, $4,000 in moral damages and $2,500 in punitive damages.

The human rights commission had been seeking a total of $20,000 on Zilberg’s behalf.

Gressy, who was absent at the March 27 hearing in front of Nolet, did not immediately respond Thursday to an email and a Facebook message seeking comment.

Vicky Fragasso-Marquis, The Canadian Press

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