Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Based On Headwear Policies Continues in United States v. New York City Transit Authority

In late September, a federal court determined that a religious discrimination case filed on behalf of Muslim and Sikh bus drivers, train operators and subway station agents should proceed. The federal ruling came a year after a district court judge determined that the case should proceed because the New York Transit Authority had failed to show any undue hardship in allowing the workers to wear their chosen headwear.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law preventing employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion. Title VII’s prohibition against religious discrimination means that an employer cannot discriminate against you because of your religious beliefs. Federal law also prohibits harassment based on your religion and retaliation for complaining about or participating in someone else’s harassment case.

One of the protections provided by Title VII is that an employer must make a reasonable effort to accommodate your religious beliefs.

In United States v. New York City Transit Authority, transit workers alleged that the NYCTA failed to accommodate Muslim and Sikh employees’ religious practices and beliefs by refusing to permit Muslim women to wear headscarves and Sikh men t wear turbans unless they were covered with Transit Authority caps or attached Transit Authority logos to them. They also alleged that the NYCTA selectively enforced its policies against Muslim and Sikh transit workers.

The district court determined that accommodating the Muslim and Sikh workers by exempting them from the cap and logo requirements would not adversely affect the NYCTA’s public image or detract from the perceived professionalism of its work force.

NYTCA appealed the ruling and asked the federal court to reconsider the lower court’s decision. The federal court again sided with the workers, finding that making a reasonable accommodation – such as allowing the workers to place the logo on a shirt rather than a turban or scarf – would not create any legitimate business or safety concerns. As a result, the case may now proceed.

For more information or if you believe your employer has discriminated against you based on your religious practices, contact the dedicated Atlanta employment discrimination attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for a confidential case evaluation.