American Turban

Lessons learned in NY and the CA Workplace Religious Freedom Act

The New York Times published an editorial last month about the workplace discrimination case involving the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority and their Sikh and Muslim employees:

This settlement should have been reached years ago. By dragging things out so long, the M.T.A. has deepened the sense of injury in the Sikh and Muslim communities.

Prominent in the Justice case was Kevin Harrington, a subway train operator and a Sikh who wears a turban. After the 9/11 attacks, he was commended by the M.T.A. for helping his passengers to safety when the World Trade Center towers collapsed. But in 2004, he said, his superiors asked him to remove his turban, arguing that passengers might not recognize him as an employee during an emergency. Mr. Harrington recently dismissed this idea, noting that during the 9/11 emergency, nobody saw him as “anything other than a train operator.” It is long past time for the M.T.A. to have figured that out.

It took eight long years to settle this case in favor of MTA’s Sikh and Muslim employees.  Such a process shouldn’t have been necessary.

In California, Sikhs and other groups have joined together in a push to pass the Workplace Religious Freedom Act (AB 1964), which would clarify existing law and help to ensure that discrimination cases such as the one involving MTA do not occur. Currently, the bill is being considered by the California Senate.

If you are a California resident, you can lend your support by filling out the petition on the Sikh Coalition website to request your Senator to support the bill.

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