The New York State Senate unanimously voted to pass Senate Bill 4037, which prohibits New York employers from discriminating against employees due to their religious attire, including grooming observations, last week.
Senate Bill 4037 makes it very clear that employers have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations for religious attire and grooming practices, such as the Sikh turban and unshorn hair. This critical piece of legislation was inspired by the Sikh Coalition’s advocacy efforts in 2011 and successful multi-year settlement against the New York City Metro Transit Authority (MTA) for discriminating against Sikh employees who were previously denied the right to wear religious head coverings in full public view.
“New York has sent a clear message to their employers that respecting and protecting our religious rights in the workplace matters,” said Sikh Coalition Policy and Advocacy Manager, Nikki Singh. “We thank New York legislators for working with organizations like the Sikh Coalition to make sure this new law passed.”
In early April, the Sikh Coalition launched an online petition campaignacross New York to mobilize Sikh community members to write their elected officials in support of the bill. On April 8th, the Sikh Coalition also mobilized 14 New York gurdwaras (Sikh houses of worship) and 22 civil rights organizations to sign onto letters supporting the legislation. On April 9th, the Sikh Coalition joined a rally in Albany, New York in support of the legislation.
“No Sikh should ever have to make the unthinkable choice between their faith and career,” said Ms. Singh. “This legislation will have an immediate impact for Sikhs who have been turned away from employment in New York, and it further paves the way for every Sikh across the state to know that their faith should never impede the career they want to pursue.”
For over 17 years, the Sikh Coalition has been fighting to end employment discrimination in the United States. This work has included successfully litigating high-impact employment discrimination cases against local and federal government agencies, major Sikh-populated industries, Fortune 500 companies and the U.S. Army. If you or someone you know has experienced discrimination in the workplace, please contact the Sikh Coalition’s legal team for a free and confidential consultation. The Sikh Coalition continues to handle an average of over 200 free legal aid cases per year, including many employment discrimination cases.
Additionally, the Sikh Coalition has led grassroots efforts to pass landmark employment discrimination laws in California in 2012. In 2011, the Sikh Coalition also initiated and secured the passage of New York City’s “Workplace Religious Freedom Act,” which significantly enhanced religion-based protections for employees working in New York City.
“We thank every New York Sikh community member that has taken action in support of this legislation, including 14 New York gurdwaras,” said Ms. Singh. “When we mobilize, the Sikh voice has the power to create change that positively impacts the lives of millions.”
The Sikh Coalition also thanks New York State Senator John Liu (D-11th District), the eleven co-sponsors of Senate Bill 4037, along with the tireless efforts of New York State Representative, David Weprin (D-24th District) for bringing this legislation to fruition.