POLITICS

New York Bans Employment Discrimination Based On Religious Attire And Facial Hair

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the new law makes it "crystal clear to anyone who may still have doubts that New York has zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind."

New York employers are now banned from discriminating against job applicants and employees based on their religious attire and facial hair, thanks to a new law Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed on Friday. 

The law, which amends the New York State Human Rights Law, “makes it crystal clear to anyone who may still have doubts that New York has zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The state Senate and Assembly bills passed on April 9. 

“At a time when instances of bigotry and hate are increasing, it is our duty to stand up for each other’s rights and dignity,” said Assembly Member David I. Weprin (D), the bill’s sponsor, on Friday.

The state Assembly has passed this bill every year since 2013, but it never cleared the state Senate, which was in Republican hands until it flipped in the 2018 elections. 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a measure on Friday that bans employers from discriminating against job applicants and
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a measure on Friday that bans employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees based on their religious attire and facial hair.

One constituency that was vocal in advocating for the law was New York’s Sikh community. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, members of the Sikh community spoke out against the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority for forcing some Muslim and Sikh workers into non-public jobs if they didn’t remove their religious head coverings or put the agency logo on them. 

In 2012, the MTA settled, allowing workers to wear their head coverings without branding or segregation. One of the groups that sued was the Sikh Coalition, which is the largest Sikh civil rights group in the country. Supporters say the new law would address cases like the one with the transit agency.

In 2011, the New York City Council also passed a measure, initiated by the Sikh Coalition, that increased the threshold for employers justifying bypassing requirements to offer religious accommodation. Weprin first introduced his bill ― the one that became law on Friday ― at that time as well. 

“No New Yorker should ever have to make the unthinkable choice between their faith and career,” said Nikki Singh, Sikh Coalition policy and advocacy manager, in a statement following the passage of the legislation.

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