Senate, Assembly pass religious attire bill to outlaw workplace discrimination

Following the lead of the state Assembly, the Senate has passed the Religious Attire Bill that would protect religious attire in the workplace under the state human rights law, prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on their attire and grooming in accordance with the requirements of their religion.

The Religious Attire bill (S.4037/A.4204) was championed by the Sikh Coalition, the nation’s largest Sikh Civil rights organization. In 2011, the Sikh Coalition worked with the New York City Council to enhance religion-based protections for employees in New York City.

However, employers outside of New York City are currently not required by law to provide reasonable religious accommodations, and are able to segregate employees with religious grooming and attire requirements.

“In this day and age, no New Yorker should have to choose between gainful employment and faithful adherence to their religious beliefs,” said the Senate sponsor of the bill, John Liu.

“New York has sent a clear message to employers that we must respect and protect religious rights in the workplace,” said Sikh Coalition Policy and Advocacy Manager, Nikki Singh. “The Sikh community joins religious minorities across the state in celebrating New York’s commitment to diversity in every aspect of professional life.”

Sikhs and other religious minorities in New York have routinely encountered workplace discrimination in regards to their appearance. The Religious Attire Bill makes it very clear that employers would have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation for religious attire and grooming practices, such as the Sikh turban and unshorn hair.

The Assembly bill, sponsored by David Weprin, passed 140-2 on February 27. The Senate bill passed unanimously on April 9.

“This legislation will have an immediate impact for individuals who have been turned away from employment, and it paves the way for every New Yorker to believe they can have the career of their dreams regardless of faith,” said Singh.