Queens Electeds Celebrate Signing of Religious Attire Bill by Governor Cuomo

Queens, New York – Assemblyman David I. Weprin, Senator John C. Liu, Assemblymembers Michael Miller, Alicia Hyndman, & Daniel Rosenthal, Council Member Adrienne Adams, District Leaders Dr. Neeta Jain & Gurdip Singh Narula, Governor Cuomo’s Director of Downstate Regional Affairs Hersh Parekh, and community members from across Queens gathered at the Sikh Cultural Society in Richmond Hill to celebrate the signing of the historic Religious Garb Bill (S.04037/A.4204) by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo which prohibits employment discrimination based on religious attire, clothing, or facial hair. The Governor signed the bill last Friday and the new law takes effect in 60 days on October 9th, 2019.

The legislation adds language to the Human Rights Law clarifying that the wearing of any attire, clothing, or

facial hair in accordance with the requirements of one’s religion is protected under law unless an employer demonstrates that it is unable to reasonably accommodate the person's religious practice without undue hardship on the conduct of its business. It was first introduced by Weprin in 2011 and has passed the Assembly each year since 2013. The bill was sponsored by Senator John C. Liu in the Senate where the change in leadership earlier this year helped the bill to finally pass the chamber.

The bill was initially proposed in response to the case of Kevin Harrington, a Sikh subway operator for the MTA, who was initially ordered to remove his turban and wear an MTA uniform hat and then a turban affixed with an

MTA logo. New Yorkers can now rest assured that they will not have to choose between their job and religious obligations.

“Today we celebrate a great victory against hate and discrimination. Finally in a state as diverse as ours, people of faith no longer have to choose between their religion and their jobs,” said Assemblyman David I. Weprin. “I applaud Governor Andrew M. Cuomo for taking a strong stand in support of the rights of all New Yorkers and signing this legislation into law. I also thank Senator John C. Liu for sponsoring the bill in the Senate and making it a priority during his first term.

"Today, New York expressly prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of religious clothes and appearance. The Religious Attire Bill makes clear that employers must provide accommodation for religious apparel and grooming practices, such as the Sikh turban and unshorn hair. The Sikh community, who has routinely encountered discrimination for their turbans and facial hair, no longer has to accept this outright bias, as a part of their everyday lives,” said Senator John C. Liu. “Especially now, where bigotry is at a fever pitch in our country, New York must stand united and lead in our tolerance and inclusion of people of all faiths."

“I would like to thank Assemblyman David I. Weprin and Senator John C. Liu for championing this bill through both houses of the legislature,” said Assemblyman Michael Miller “In addition, I want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this legislation into law, which will now protect all those who wear religious attire in their daily lives. This bill was long time coming and I commend all those involved in making this a reality.”

“Today is a historic day, not just for my constituency but for those across the Borough of Queens and the State of New York. We must be uncompromising in our fight for justice, fairness, and equality, said Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman. “The beauty of this State and this country is the idea that no matter who you are or where you are from you can be YOU. I applaud the Governor, my colleagues in the Senate and the Assembly for making Religious Garb Bill law.”

"I was proud to co-sponsor this bill that will prohibit any unlawful discrimination by employers based on principals of belief and adherence to religious attire," said Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal. "Today, New York said in one clear voice that we will not tolerate bias or bigotry of any kind."

"This bill provides a vital protection for diversity in New York State. I am proud to support this initiative and the communities who fought for this inalienable right,” said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz. “Assemblyman Weprin and Senator Liu have shown their dedication to justice and equality. Today, we demonstrate to the rest of the country that discrimination has no place in New York."

“For far too long people have been marginalized and discriminated against based on their religious attire,” said Council Member Adrienne Adams. “Religious expression should be celebrated in a state as diverse as New York and no one should have to sacrifice employment for religious freedom. I applaud Assembly Member Weprin and Senator Liu for their diligence in making this bill a reality.”

“By signing this bill into law, New York has sent a clear message to employers across the state about the value of diversity in professional spaces,” said Sikh Coalition Policy and Advocacy Manager Nikki Singh. “The Sikh Coalition has been fighting since 2005 for these kinds of protections in New York, and we celebrate this clear message to employers about the need to respect religious rights in the workplace.”

"I appreciate the efforts of Assemblyman David Weprin and Senator John C. Liu for introducing the Religious Garb Bill. I also want to congratulate them for having the bill successfully passed. My own ideology is based on the notion that everyone has the right to express themselves freely without any sorts of discrimination,” said District Leader Dr. Neeta Jain. “This bill has taken us one step closer to justice and our main concern of equality."

“It is a great honor and privilege to work with Assemblyman David Weprin and Senator John Liu and all the elected officials to succeed in this long effort to pass the protections for all religions,” said District Leader Gurdip Singh Narula. “I was once a victim of a hate crime and unfortunately this happens to often. But this bill is a start and we now have protections in the workplace.”