Susan Abeles, an Orthodox Jewish woman who was punished for taking off the last two days of Passover from her job with the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority, is seeking a U.S. Supreme Court review of her case.
Lower federal courts have dismissed her claim of religious discrimination. Last month her lawyers, Lewin & Lewin of Washington, DC, filed a petition for a Writ of Certiorari in the Supreme Court.
According to the petition, although Ms. Abeles seems plainly to have followed agency procedures for requesting time off by fully notifying her supervisor via e-mail, the agency – in what appears to us to be a rather strained application of its own rules – claimed she hadn’t because she didn’t copy her immediate supervisor. The employee manual requires that there be “an exchange of e-mails between the employee and supervisor,” and Ms. Abeles regularly followed the same procedure for more than twenty-five years before she was given new supervisors.
To be sure, there are several technical legal issues also in the case, but our concern is that if the kind of creative reading the agency gave to its leave-time rules is allowed to stand, substantial loopholes in the enforcement of federal legal protections will doubtless follow.
Nathan Lewin, Ms. Abeles’s lawyer and a leading Supreme Court litigator, said: “This is the most extreme case of refusal to permit an employee to observe his or her religion that I have ever seen. I hope the Supreme Court will not eradicate the protection given to religious observance in the workplace by allowing this plainly erroneous decision to stand.”
We second that hope.