This week, the New York City Council unanimously passed a bill providing greater religious-based protections to employees working in New York City. The bill was prompted by New York City Police Department rules that prohibited Sikh police officers from wearing turbans, which is required by their religion. Nevertheless, the bill, which is referred to as the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act,” protects all employees in New York City from religious discrimination.
The bill imposes a greater burden on employers to show that a requested “accommodation,” such as praying at different times during the workday is unreasonable. Current New York City law requires that an employer make a reasonable accommodation for religious practices, unless the employer can show that doing so would impose a minimal burden or expense. The New York City bill amends this standard to require that the employer provide the accommodation unless doing so would entail “significant difficulty or expense.”
Once again, the New York City Council has taken the lead in furthering anti-discrimination measures in the workplace. Indeed, the New York City Human Rights Law is one of the most progressive and pro-employee anti-discrimination laws in the country.