New York Allows Headgear for Sikh, Muslim Transit Employees
New York: Muslim and Sikh employees of New York’s transit system will now be able to wear their religious headgear freely, without attaching a government agency logo to them, in a major legal victory after new uniform rules were imposed following the 9/11 attacks.
The US Justice Department on Wednesday reached a settlement with the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) eight years after it had filed a complaint in September 2004 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York alleging that NYCTA engaged in a pattern of religious discrimination.
Under the agreement, the NYCTA would be required to adopt new uniform headwear policies, allowing employees working in public contact positions, like operating buses and subways, to wear khimars, yarmulkes, turbans, kufis, skullcaps, tams and headscarves without attaching the logo of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to the headwear. MTA is the parent agency for the rail and bus operator NYCTA.
The NYCTA would also pay $184,500 to eight of its current and former employees, some of them Sikhs and Muslims, who had alleged employment discrimination after they refused to adhere to attach logos to their headwear.
The deal also allows Sikh MTA workers to wear turbans as long as they match the blue colour of the MTA uniform. MTA management and other employees will receive extensive training on the new policy according to the settlement.
“This settlement agreement sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate religious discrimination,” Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas Perez said in a statement.
“I am pleased that the NYCTA has agreed to end its discriminatory practices that for years have forced employees to choose between practicing their religion and maintaining their jobs.”