Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Progresses

A New York federal court has determined that the Department of Justice may proceed with a religious discrimination case against the New York City Transit Authority brought on behalf of New York City bus drivers, train operators and subway station agents who were denied accommodation or subjected to selective enforcement of job-related headwear policies.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on your religious beliefs. Pursuant to Title VII, three separate protections exists:

• Your employer must make reasonable efforts to accommodate your religious beliefs and practices;
• Your employer may not impose its religious views on you or permit your co-employees to impose their religious views on you; and • Your employer may not take adverse action against you (including harassment) because of your religious beliefs.

In United States v. New York City Transit Auth., the alleged discriminatory practices occurred Post-9/11, with the NYCTA enforcing headwear policies selectively against Muslim bus operators although they had previously worn khimars while providing passenger services. Subway train operators and station agents went through similar experiences regarding the headwear policies for their positions.

Although the NYCTA amended the headwear policies allowing for turban and khimars to be made out of NYCTA blue cotton fabric, they required an agency logo be place in the middle of their religious headwear, rather than allowing the logo to be placed on the collar or pocket.

In rejecting the NYCTA’s assertion of hardship, the court noted that any hardship was “nowhere near as obvious as the hardships posted by exempting the employees of certain commercial businesses from grooming requirements.” Additionally, wearing the logo wasn’t necessitated by a concern for safety.

Unfortunately in recent years religious discrimination in the work place has proliferated. Often discriminatory actions manifest themselves subtly – such as English only rules and dress codes. Discrimination may also occur in how you are allowed to practice your religion.

For more information or if you believe you have been the victim of religious discrimination, contact Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, dedicated to protecting employee’s rights.