The New York City Council passed a bill last week making it harder for employers, including the NYPD, to claim that accommodations for religious practice cause undue hardship. Section 8-107 of the New York City Administrative Code requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” for the religious needs of their employees. The Code, however, adds that such accommodations shall not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business.
The Sikh community has been among the prime advocates for this bill. In 2004, two Sikhs lost their positions with the New York City Police Department for wearing turbans on the job. Both men were reinstated, but pressures to amend the Administrative Code did not stop. Currently, the NYPD’s strict uniform requirements allow for Sikhs to wear patkas, smaller turbans usually worn by Sikh children.
According to The Sikh Coalition, dastaars, head turbans worn by practicing adult Sikhs, are a sign of dedication to the faith. The Coalition describes its mission as “work[ing] towards a world where Sikhs may freely practice and enjoy their faith while fostering strong relations with their local community wherever they may be.” The Coalition introduced the bill amending the Administrative Code to City Council.
Last week’s amendment requires that a business relying upon the undue hardship exception show, among other things, the nature and cost of the accommodation and the overall financial resources involved in the accommodation. It will be interesting to watch how employers react to this amendment and what, if any, new religious accommodations will be made.