Assembly Bill Would Protect Religious Garb in Workplace
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Assembly Bill Would Protect Religious Garb in Workplace

In its closing session on Friday, the Assembly voted to protect Jews, Sikhs and others who wear religious garb or beards in the workplace, including uniformed services from discrimination. The Senate, however, did not vote on the measure, meaning it can’t become law before the end of the year, at the earliest.

“People should not have to make a choice between working to provide for their families or observing their religion,” said Assemblyman David Weprin of Queens. “It is unacceptable that workers have faced discrimination for wearing their religious attire or facial hair because it is an infringement on their civil liberties.

The bill amends civil rights law, the executive law and the labor law to ban discrimination and protects the rights of both uniformed employees and all New Yorkers from discrimination by allowing them to dress according to their religious customs. The exception is when such garb or appearance poses a hazard to that person or to the public.

“We enthusiastically support Assemblyman David Weprin’s Bill A864-A calling for equal employment opportunities for all New Yorkers regardless of religious attire and facial grooming,” Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky, Director of the Chabad of Northeast Queens. “ This religious observance issue confronts many Orthodox Jewish New Yorkers, who ought to be protected against discrimination at their worksites.

The Senate sponsor is James Sanders, a Democrat of Brooklyn.

Among recent cases cited by Weprin’s office were Fishel Litzman, 38, a Chabad Hasidic from Monsey, who was denied graduation from the MYPD police department this month because he refused to trim his beard down to the required 1 millimeter length.

In an interview, Weprin told The Jewish Week that the issue could come to a vote in the Senate of Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls for a special session later this year to deal with unresolved issues.

He said the legislation, which adds protections to the segment of civil rights law that allows workers to take off religious holidays, puts the onus on an employer to show how the wearing of religious garb would presenta hazard or prevent a worker from doing his or her job.

“The police department has been the most guilty of denying people admission because they look different,” he said. “Sikhs have been trying to get in and face more difficulty because they have both beards and turbans.”

He said that in Israelreligious Jews are able to do a variety of public safety related jobs without concern about their beards.

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