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NYC Permits Religious Head Wear for Transit Workers
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As part of a legal settlement made on Wednesday in Brooklyn federal court, the transit system of New York City has agreed to allow Muslim and Sikh employees to wear religious head coverings in public, including the time when they are on duty operating buses and subways. The settlement ends the “brand or segregate” policy put into place by the New York City Transit Authority following 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

According to the settlement, Transit Authority employees would no longer be forced to brand their religious headware with logos for the operator organization but can wear them as long as they are of the same color as their transit uniforms.

The lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against the Transit Authority in 2004, because it was being used to target Sikh and Muslim workers. When employees refused to attach transit authority logos to their religious head ware, they were systematically disciplined and forced to work out of the view of passengers in less-desirable jobs.

  
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Though Transit Authority officials said that the crackdown was “across-the-board, neutral enforcement” of its uniform policy, Sikh and Muslim employees said that it was designed to appease anti-Muslim sentiments.

Amardeep Singh, program director of the Sikh Coalition said, “We’re glad that this sad chapter in our city’s reaction to 9/11 has come to an end.”

Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division said that he was “pleased that the NYCTA has agreed to end its discriminatory practices that for years have forced employees to choose between practicing their religion and maintaining jobs.”

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The Transit Authority has also relented to pay monetary settlements amounting to $184,500 to eight Sikh and Muslim current and former employees though it still maintains the policy was “never animated by religious or ethnic bias.”

The case is U.S. v. New York City Transit Authority, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, no. 04-4237.





 

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