Germantown man says SEPTA fired him for observing Jewish holy days

Listen
 Romel McAlpin says he was fired from his job at SEPTA for refusing to work on Jewish holy days. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Romel McAlpin says he was fired from his job at SEPTA for refusing to work on Jewish holy days. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

A Germantown man is fighting to get job back with SEPTA after he was fired last year for refusing to work on Jewish holy days.

According to an August legal brief, Romel McAlpin lost his job as a custodian after he didn’t come to work on Rosh Hashanah or on Oct. 12 in observance of Shabbat, which runs each week from Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown.

McAlpin is an active member of the Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ, a sect that observes certain Jewish holidays.

Shortly after being hired last May, McAlpin told SEPTA that his religious beliefs prevented him from working on those days, according to the brief filed by the Transport Workers Union Local 234.

SEPTA denied McAlpin’s request, but said he could swap days with a less senior employee because that wouldn’t “circumvent” the union’s contract with SEPTA.

Bruce Bodner, who is representing McAlpin, said his client should have been able to switch shifts with any employee as long as the changes were voluntary.

McAlpin was able to find a fix, but only temporarily.

“There was no good reason for him to be fired. There’s no problem with his work performance. There’s no problem with his attendance other than this,” said Bodner.

“They looked upon him as a nuisance because they were asking SEPTA to respect his legal rights and they got rid of him.”

McAlpin declined comment. So did SEPTA.

The case will be decided through arbitration. A date for what is expected to be a one-day hearing has not yet been set.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.