NEW YORK (JTA) — An Orthodox Jewish paramedic is suing a New York hospital for discrimination for not allowing her to wear skirts. In the civil suit filed Tuesday, Hadas Goldfarb says she was offered a job as a paramedic at the New York Presbyterian Hospital in 2015, but was terminated amid orientation after refusing to comply with the dress code, which stipulates that paramedics wear pants. The 26-year- old Brooklyn resident alleges in a complaint that her “termination was unlawful retaliation for her refusing to compromise her religious principles.”
Goldfarb only wears skirts, a practice common among Orthodox Jewish women who follow strict rules dictating personal dress. She says she has done so while working as a paramedic for other employers. Following her termination, Goldfarb filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and in February, she received a notice of right to sue. The lawsuit, which was filed with Kings County Supreme Court, alleges that the hospital failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation for her religious observance and that doing so is discriminatory and illegal. Along with New York Presbyterian Hospital, the City of New York is named in the suit; its Fire Department works with the hospital on emergency response.
Goldfarb is suing for damages, the reinstatement of her position, and an order enjoining the hospital and the city to stop denying requests for accommodation in relation to the
pants policy. The hospital did not return requests for comment by JTA.
Goldfarb said she was surprised by the hospital’s response to her request to wear a skirt. “I’ve been an EMS for a while and I haven’t had a problem — I just wasn’t expecting it to be an issue,” she told JTA. She has since found a job as a paramedic for an emergency telemedicine company, which does not take issue with her style of dress. Her lawyer, Joseph Aron, told JTA that he was confident in his client’s case, citing previous cases in which U.S. courts ruled in favor of plaintiffs suing for the right to wear head coverings or style their facial hair in ways contrary to employer dress codes.
“We’re definitely confident that the law is on our side,” said Aron, who specializes in employment law and discrimination. The case resonates personally with Aron, an Orthodox father of three young girls. “[W]hen they grow up, and they get a job with something that they are passionate about, they shouldn’t have to make sacrifices in a scenario where the job could be done as is how they are accustomed to dressing, [and] it doesn’t injure their ability to perform,” he said, referring to his daughters.