Religious rights defended in New York

“In the past 20 years, New York state has become much more pluralistic. We have more diversity in religious practices,” Schneiderman said at an Anti-Defamation League luncheon Wednesday in New York City. “The growth of our Hassidic and other Jewish communities, of the number of observant Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, has been staggering, and frankly, we need to adjust things in the office of the New York State Attorney General to deal with this new, more pluralistic reality.”

— New York State’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman discusses the motivation behind his department’s Religious Rights Initiative. This follows New York City’s passing of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act in August:

On August 31, 2011, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (WRFA). The WRFA defi nes “undue hardship” as that term is used in the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) in the context of an employer’s duty to provide a reasonable accommodation for the religious practices of an employee or job applicant. The new law, which took effect when the Mayor signed it, clarifi es that employers in New York City are more likely to be required to accommodate an employee or job applicant’s religious practices under the NYCHRL than under analogous federal law.

While the WRFA was passed in New York City, a federal bill of the same name has been introduced twice by Senator John Kerry – once in 2005 and once in 2010.  That bill, which would have ensured such rights across the United States, never made it out of committee either time. So, much credit should go to New York’s state and city governments for enacting these policies.

The Religious Rights Initiative and the WRFA both would aid in ensuring that Sikhs don’t face workplace discrimination. One wonders if such policies in California would have helped Trilochan Singh Oberoi in his recently-settled saga against California’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, but it doesn’t appear that California’s Attornies General have been as supportive as those in New York about religious rights in the workplace.


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