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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ohio Court To Jewish Postman: No Break For Rain, Sleet, Snow Or Sabbath

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A federal appeals court has dismissed a religious discrimination lawsuit filed by Messianic Jew who claimed the Postal Service made him deliver mail on Saturdays, his Sabbath. The 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said it would not order Postmaster General John E. Potter to accommodate the letter carrier's religious beliefs. Martin Tepper works out of the Chagrin Falls post office in Cleveland's suburbs and had regulary received Saturday off from April 1992 until January 2003.

Coworkers and officials covered for Tepper until staffing cuts and the union decided the practice of allowing him the Sabbath off had to end. The post office spent $8,769 on overtime in 2000 and $7.015.68 in 2001 to cover for Tepper on Saturdays. Tepper contended in his lawsuit that Sunday is a Christian religious holiday and postal services were minimal due to the Christian practice of going to church on Sunday. Circuit Judge R. Guy Cole Jr., who wrote the opinion dismissing the case, said Sunday is not a religious day. He found that it is a non-business day.

"Tepper asserts that he has been treated differently than his coworkers. He asserts that all Full-Time regular letter carriers besides himself are able to avoid work on their Sabbath. However, the record does not show this. There is no evidence that the purpose of the Sunday off is to allow workers to observe their Sabbath. In this case, the Sunday off occurs because only special deliveries are made that day, so the employers needs are minimal on Sunday. Tepper's coworkers are granted Sunday off not so that they may celebrate their Sabbath, but because it fits the need of their employer. Consequently, all employees are treated equally; they are required to work a five-day work week with a rotating day off."

Judge Guy did not address the broader question that Tepper's lawsuit seems to have raised. Why is it that there is no mail delivery on Sunday? Why was that day picked to give employees the day off? Perhaps because Sunday has traditionally been set aside as the day of rest, the Sabbath in Christian cultures. It is the day when most churches are open for services.


  1. Weird! This one I have to read more about. Something we need a lot more facts about what's going on and what's common practice. Very intriguing I would say! Thanks. What caught your attention that you noted it at all?

  2. Hi Jill --

    There is a link to the full decision, seven pages long, in my post. More details there.

    It caught my eye when it came out yesterday. I try to pay attention to the 6th Circuit, but have not been doing a good job of late. As to why I wrote about it: I am pretty fascinated by the issue of religious discrimination/freedom as it gets tossed around the courts in Ohio. No more, no less. Check out the full text of the ruling.