So at least it appears from this news story; I'm trying to get my hands on the exact complaint, but so far I haven't gotten it. (If anyone knows more about this, please let me know.)
The [Spring Valley, New York] chapter of the NAACP has filed a complaint accusing the Ben Gilman Medical and Dental Clinic of religious discrimination for closing on Saturdays.
The complaint, filed Sept. 6 with the state's Division of Human Rights, alleges that the clinic's practice of remaining closed Saturdays in observance of operators' Jewish Sabbath, unlawfully imposes their religious beliefs on others....
Willie Trotman, president of the Spring Valley branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the purpose of the complaint was to have the clinic open on Saturdays.
Those who work -- more than 80 percent of the clinic's clientele are Hispanic or black, according to a letter the clinic sent to the Human Rights Commission earlier this year -- would find it convenient to visit their doctors on a Saturday when they had the day off, Trotman said yesterday....
Because the complaint is confidential, [county Human Rights Commissioner S. Ram] Nagubandi could not comment on its specifics. However, he confirmed that a complaint had been filed by the NAACP and said his office -- acting as an agent for the state's Division of Human Rights -- would investigate the matter....
In a copy of the complaint provided by the NAACP, Hoffman, Milner and the clinic were said to "invoke their religion" in order to engage in "disparate treatment" of people of different faiths. It also alleges that the respondents failed to accommodate other religious beliefs....
If the complaint is as the newspaper describes it, then it's quite legally unfounded -- in fact, its theory is itself religiously discriminatory.
Some religious discrimination laws likely do bar clinics from discriminating against patients based on the patients' religious beliefs. Some of them (though not the relevant federal and New York laws) might require clinics to take steps to accommodate patients' religious beliefs, by exempting patients from clinics' generally applicable rules when the rules violate the patients' religious beliefs and the exemption isn't that burdensome on the clinic. (For instance, if a clinic requires patients to be photographed for their files and a patient has a sincere religious objection to such a requirement, the clinic may be required to exempt the patient from that objection unless there's a really important reason for the photograph.) But closing Saturdays neither treats patients differently because of their religion, nor requires patients (as a condition of getting service) to do something that violates their own religious beliefs.
Moreover, clinics are entirely free to close Saturdays just because the doctors (like people in other businesses that are closed weekends) want the day off. And if they're free to close Saturdays for secular reasons, they're equally free to close Saturdays for religious reasons. Allowing clinics to close for secular reasons but not religious ones (on the spurious grounds that closing Saturdays "unlawfully imposes their religious beliefs on others") would be discrimination against religion, since it would treat religiously motivated conduct worse than identical secularly motivated conduct.
Nor does the fact that the doctor's office gets federal funds, which the story also mentions as a basis for the NAACP chapter's complaint, change the analysis. The federal government might be able to require that offices that get federal funds remain open six days a week, regardless of their motivation for closing, and this might lead to a religious accommodation demand on the part of the doctors, likely citing the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But in the absence of such a requirement, doctors remain free to close whatever days they please, whether they want to close Wednesdays to play golf, Saturdays or Sundays to play with their kids, or Saturdays to observe the Sabbath.
Thanks to Joel Grossman for the pointer.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Jewish-Owned Clinic's Decision to Close Saturdays Interferes With Religious Freedom --
- NAACP Chapter Claims That It's Illegal for Jewish-Owned Medical Clinic to Close Saturdays: