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Queens Pols Celebrate Law Barring Discrimination Based on Religious Attire

Assemblyman David I. Weprin & Senator John C. Liu stand with Sikh Coalition Policy and Advocacy Manager Nikki Singh, District Leaders Dr. Neeta Jain & Gurdip Singh Narula.

Aug. 15, 2019 By Ryanne Salzano

Elected officials from Queens celebrated the signing of the Religious Garb Bill at the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill on Tuesday.

The bill, signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, Aug. 9, widens the definition of employment discrimination in New York’s existing Human Rights Law. Now, religious attire, clothing and facial hair are protected under the law.

The bill first passed the state assembly in 2013 but always lacked the support of the state senate.

This year, with the Democrats taking control of the senate, it finally got the backing of the upper house. The bill passed the senate after being sponsored by State Sen. John Liu.

Assemblyman David Weprin, who represents District 24 in Queens, championed the bill in the assembly since its inception.

The bill protects employees from being fired–or from not being promoted–because of their religious garb or facial hair.

The bill came as a response to the case of Kevin Harrington, a Sikh MTA employee, in 2004. Harrington, a subway operator, was ordered to remove his turban and wear an MTA uniform hat. He was also given the choice to brand his turban with an agency logo.

“Today we celebrate a great victory against hate and discrimination,” Weprin said. “Finally in a state as diverse as ours, people of faith no longer have to choose between their religion and their jobs.”

The officials in attendance included:  Assemblyman Weprin, State Sen. Liu, Assemblymembers Michael Miller, Alica Hyndman and Daniel Rosenthal, Council Member Adrienne Adams, District Leaders Dr. Neeta Jain and Gurdip Singh Narula, Governor Cuomo’s Director of Downstate Regional Affairs Hersh Parekh, and other Queens community members.

“Today, New York expressly prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of religious clothes and appearance. The Religious Attire Bill makes clear that employers must provide accommodation for religious apparel and grooming practices, such as the Sikh turban and unshorn hair,” Liu said.

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