The City Council unanimously passed a bill last Thursday sponsored by Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) that makes it against the law for employers to discriminate against their workers’ religious beliefs or dress.
Weprin said the passage of the bill, which he said he worked on with the Sikh Coalition, means the NYPD or Metropolitan Transportation Authority cannot ban Sikhs from wearing turbans.
The bill, which passed 51-0, requires employers to provide accommodation of their employees’ religious customs “if it will result in the inability of an employee to perform the essential functions of the position in which he or she is employed.”
The legislation now awaits the signature of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after which the law takes effect immediately.
“This bill sends the message that people should now have to choose between serving our city and adhering to their religious beliefs,” Weprin said. “All Americans should receive the full embrace of our country’s constitutional reforms.”
Amardeep Singh, director of programs for the Sikh Coalition, testified in favor of the bill during a June 30 Council hearing.
Singh derided the MTA’s position that it can “lawfully segregate Muslim and Sikh workers from the general public” unless they agree to put the MTA logo on their religious headwear.
The MTA contended that it could legally force such workers to the railyards and out of public view if they did not fit the authority’s corporate image, Singh claimed.
“The spirit of the city’s anti-discrimination law is to integrate the workplace, not to segregate religious minorities,” Singh said. “We therefore ask that the city enact a law that generally forbids segregation of employees from customers and the general public on the basis of image policies, uniform policies and actual or perceived customer or public preference.”