Assembly Passes Religious Garb Bill

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

A piece of legislation meant to protect the rights of religious individuals is on its way to becoming law.

On Jan. 14, the New York State Assembly passed the Religious Garb bill, which would prohibit workplace discrimination against attire worn for a religious purpose. The legislation is being sponsored by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Fresh Meadows) and co-sponsored by William Scarborough (D-Jamaica).

Weprin put together the bill in response to complaints from religious communities that feel their religious garb or facial grooming has led to discriminatory practices. The memo for the bill listed the case of a Sikh MTA worker as an example. The employee objected to being told to remove his turban and wear the MTA hat. When the MTA responded that he could wear the turban if he attached an MTA badge to the front of it, he said this was unacceptable as it would not be religiously proper. The bill would seek to prevent these incidents from occurring.

Besides protecting the rights of uniformed employees by amending the civil-rights law, executive law and labor law, the bill would apply to all New Yorkers, protecting them from discrimination for wearing any sort of religiously motivated or mandated garb as long as it does not pose a hazard to that person or to the public.

The legislation received wide support in the Assembly, passing by a vote of 133-1. The sole vote against the act was by Assemblyman Al Graf (R-Holbrook).

The bill is being sponsored by State Sen. James Sanders (D-Jamaica) in the Senate, although it has not yet come to a vote. Weprin’s communications director, Celia Dosamantes, said that the bill does have bi-partisan support and that Gov. Andrew Cuomo would like to sign the bill, so it has a good chance of becoming law by late February.

“It is an unacceptable that workers have faced discrimination for wearing their religious attire or facial hair because it is an infringement on their civil liberties,” Weprin said. “Let us be a state that continues to promote diversity, leadership and service in our communities and businesses.”

Religious leaders throughout the City backed the potential law.

“We urge all of our state law makers to support the Religious Garb bill so that New York State can continue to lead the way for religious and racial tolerance,” Gurdev Kang, president of the Sikh Cultural Society, said.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.