Observant employee loses appeal

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A federal appellate court panel has unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling that found there was no religious discrimination in a case filed by a Jewish woman who claimed her employer violated her civil rights by penalizing her for being absent without leave during the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Susan Abeles, of Silver Spring, filed a federal lawsuit in 2015 against the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority claiming that her former employer violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.


“Plaintiff adduces no evidence that MWAA treated her differently from similarly-situated employees outside her protected class,” Judge Allyson Duncan of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in an opinion dated Jan. 26.
Nat Lewin, of Lewin & Lewin, who represents Abeles, said he plans to file a request for a review of the decision by all of the active judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The Airports Authority’s conduct was the most egregious example of deliberate retaliation for observance of a religious holiday that I have seen in decades of experience in this field,” Lewin said in an email.

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“If so thin a pretext as the MWAA offered can excuse punishment for religious observance, no employee with a bona fide religious duty is safe from arbitrary after-the-fact punishment by his or her employer,” he said.

The judges joining Duncan in her opinion were J. Harvie Wilkinson III and Dennis Shedd.


Duncan’s opinion is unpublished, meaning it cannot be cited for precedent in future cases. n

—Justin Katz

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