BA worker gets ‘final warning’ over taking Shabbat as day off

An Orthodox Jewish employee of British Airways has been given a final warning about his conduct because he failed to turn up for work on a Saturday - more than 18 months ago.

An internal disciplinary hearing also found an allegation of neglect of duty proven against 47-year-old Daniel Rosenthal, who is Shabbat-observant, for the same reason. According to a letter he received seen by the JC, "if there is a repeat of such behaviour or any further unacceptable conduct", he could be fired.

Mr Rosenthal, of Hendon, North West London, was this week considering whether to appeal using BA's internal machinery ahead of any decision to take the national airline to an employment tribunal.

"I was very surprised that I was given a final warning because I have not had a warning prior to this. Usually they would give a verbal warning, then a written warning, but the significance of my not showing up for my rostered shift was such that they have gone straight to the final warning," said Mr Rosenthal. "Anyone looking at this from the outside would wonder what was going on."

Mr Rosenthal said he had suffered so much stress as a result of the hearing and the delay that he has been on medication and signed off work altogether since June.

The JC highlighted Mr Rosenthal's problems last December. He had joined BA in 2005 as a customer service agent processing baggage, where he was allowed to observe Shabbat. But a year later, he was moved to check-in where he was told he had to work a shift pattern that included Shabbat.

On December 16, 2006, he did not turn up for his shift, having tried to find a replacement and applied to take the day off as holiday. It was for that missed shift that he faced the disciplinary hearing. Mr Rosenthal said that BA had promised to help find him another job. "But other than a couple of chats, BA has done nothing," he said.

When Mr Rosenthal's story appeared in December, BA spoke about its diversity and how it respected Mr Rosenthal's religion and his desire to observe Shabbat and the holidays. It pointed out that he had been asked to work a Saturday since March of last year while it investigated the "grievance" he had. A BA spokesman would say only that "we have offered to sit down with Mr Rosenthal and find him a job".

    Last updated: 1:21pm, July 31 2008