By Victoria Merlino
Employers will no longer be able to discriminate against job candidates based on religious attire or facial hair, according to a new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday.
“As New Yorkers we celebrate our diversity and we champion freedom of religious expression in all places, including the workplace,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This law will protect people from discriminatory employment practices based on religious attire or facial hair and makes it crystal clear to anyone who may still have doubts that New York has zero tolerance for bigotry of any kind.”
The legislation clarifies a provision of New York State Human Rights Law that employers cannot take discriminatory actions, including not hiring or promoting someone, based on the attire or facial hair they wear in accordance with their religion.
“The historic religious garb bill makes it clear that New Yorkers will not tolerate any discrimination against people of faith in the workplace,” said Assemblymember David Weprin, who sponsored the bill along with State Sen. John Liu. “At a time when instances of bigotry and hate are increasing, it is our duty to stand up for each other's rights and dignity.”
The bill’s passage was due in part to the efforts of the Sikh Coalition’s efforts, and advocacy group that successfully lobbied for similar protections in New York City in 2011. Members of Sikhism, a religion that originated in India, can often be identified by the turbans or head scarves that they wear. However, Sikhs are sometimes singled out for discrimination and hate crimes because of their religious garb.
Queens, specifically Richmond Hill, is home to one of the largest Sikh communities in New York City.
“No Sikh should ever have to make the unthinkable choice between their faith and career,” said Sikh Coalition Policy and Advocacy Manager Nikki Singh earlier this year. “This legislation will have an immediate impact for Sikhs who have been turned away from employment in New York, and it further paves the way for every Sikh across the state to know that their faith should never impede the career they want to pursue.”
Hate crimes in general have been on the rise in New York City, with a 64 percent increase in hate crimes since last year, according to NYPD data.
Mayor Bill de Blasio recently opened the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes to help combat the issue.