Orthodox Paramedic Sues Over Hospitals No-Skirt Policy

December 7, 2017

 

                             New York Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. (AP Photo/David Karp)


BROOKLYN - An Orthodox woman from Flatbush is suing New York Presbyterian Hospital and
the City of New York, claiming that she was fired from her job as a paramedic for her insistence on
wearing a skirt while working. Hospital regulations specifically require responders and others to
wear pants on the job, claiming that dresses and the like impede speedy response time and present
safety concerns.
The plaintiff, Mrs. Hadas Goldfarb, claims that when she told superiors she was unable to conform to
the dress code, as it would violate the Jewish laws governing modest dress, no attempt was made to
accommodate her needs, and she was told clearly that she would not be able to continue in her
position.
“I think this is an important case for the frum community in general,” attorney Joseph Aron, who is
representing Mrs. Goldfarb, told Hamodia. “This goes beyond my client’s situation. If a woman finds
a job that she is suited for and wearing a skirt does not impede her ability to do it, it’s important that

she be accommodated.”
The hospital claimed that wearing a skirt would slow Mrs. Goldfarb’s ability to reach patients as
quickly as if she were wearing trousers, and that the nature of the garment would expose her to
additional risks when responding to emergencies. Yet, Mr. Aron said, the hospital never presented
any evidence of its claims or conducted any sort of test to prove them.
Mrs. Goldfarb was hired in 2015 by New York Presbyterian to work as part of its paramedic corps.
After noticing a clause in the employee manual forbidding the wearing of skirts on the job, she
approached Michael Koppel, the hospital’s director of paramedic services, and raised the issue of the
conflict she had with the regulation. She made it clear that she would not wear anything that would
“limit her mobility, hinder her performance, or pose a safety risk to anyone, including herself,” says
the complaint.
The filing also notes that Mrs. Goldfarb had worked for two ambulance companies in her hometown
of Cleveland while wearing a skirt, “without incident.”
Mr. Koppel told her that the hospital was not at liberty to make an exception to its dress code, but
referred her to a representative of the FDNY, which sets the standards for paramedics employed by
the hospital. The FDNY also said that Mrs. Goldfarb would have to conform to the standard dress
code if she wanted to work as a paramedic.
At an orientation event, Mr. Koppel approached Mrs. Goldfarb and asked her whether she was
willing to conform to the dress requirement, and when she responded that she was not able to
compromise on her religious beliefs, she was promptly terminated, according to the complaint.
“There is no debate as to what the facts are here,” said Mr. Aron. “They made no attempt at
accommodation, that’s what is so concerning.”
According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers are required to make “reasonable
accommodation” for the religious needs of employees as long as it does not cause “undue burden.”
Mrs. Goldfarb filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who
reviewed her claim and informed her that she had the right to sue. The suit was filed with Kings
County Supreme Court last week.
Mrs. Goldfarb has since found another paramedic job, with an employer who agreed to allow her to
wear a skirt while working.
This article appeared in print on page 37 of the May 30th, 2017 edition of Hamodia.
 

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