Thursday, June 7, 2012

"M.T.A. Agrees That Workers May Wear Religious Headgear"

"M.T.A. Agrees That Workers May Wear Religious Headgear - NYTimes.com"

It's been since 2004, but this case has finally been settled. Employees will be allowed to wear their head coverings - turbans or hijab - in public with New York City's transit. As long as it's blue - the colour of their uniforms - so that passengers can figure out that they are employees.

Apparently there was some discussion as to whether employees were told not to wear their head coverings in public after the 9/11 events, and people of head covering persuasion were quickly singled out as potential enemies, possibly due to the fact that Taliban affiliates, who claimed responsibility for the attacks, also wear head coverings of some kind.

Not sure if the monetary compensation is warranted: "In a statement, the Justice Department said the authority would pay a total of $184,500 to eight current or former employees who had been “denied religious accommodations” under the old policy." But it sure does reflect the fact that they're all-American! (sorry - the irony struck me funny.)

On a more serious note, the importance of the individual wearing the head covering::
For Kevin Harrington, a Sikh employee of the authority, the settlement was little solace. In 2004, he recalled, his superiors said that riders might not recognize him, in his turban, as an authority employee in the event of an emergency. Mr. Harrington, now 61, was told he would be moved to a job in a storage yard if he refused to take off his turban or, later, if he refused to affix an authority logo to it.
On a fateful Tuesday less than three years before that, Mr. Harrington drove his train backward to keep passengers away from ground zero, an act that earned him an award from the authority. “Nobody saw anything,” he said, “other than that I was a train operator.”  [emphsis mine - LM]
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