NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A veteran MTA worker is angry after he says the transit authority demanded he provide proof he was taking a day off to observe a religious holiday.
Benjamin Schaefer has been working as a subway conductor for the MTA for 22 years.
An Orthodox Jew, he takes off Rosh Hashanah every year, but this time, his request was denied.
“Nobody should ever have to choose between their career and the practice of their religion,” Schaefer told CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon.
Schaefer says he followed MTA policy and deadlines when putting in his request, but it was still not approved.
After his union stepped in, it was — but with a caveat.
“If I want the day off, I have to bring in documentation within five days even though I’ve been practicing the same holiday, the same practice for 22 years,” Schaefer said.
Schaefer says he was told if he didn’t, the MTA would write him up and he could face disciplinary action.
“It’s very degrading, quite frankly, and no one should be put through this,” he said.
The union that represents transit workers says the whole situation is ridiculous.
“To me, it’s just another example of the abuse that our employees have to take from management,” said Raul Lugo, with TWU Local 100.
The MTA says Schaefer’s request was received after all leave slots for the day were distributed.
It says an exception was made for him to have it off and someone else was bumped out of their day off to do so.
The MTA says its policy is that employees do not have to provide documentation to receive single religious holidays off. It says it has reviewed Schaefer’s case and he will not have to provide proof to get the day off.
Schaefer says he’s grateful but still frustrated the misunderstanding took place at all.
“I shouldn’t have had to in the beginning, so it’s like, should I be rejoicing?” he said.
He says if the MTA does have a religious hotel policy in place, it needs to be stricter in enforcing it.