The Justice Department announced today that it has reached a settlement with the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) to resolve allegations that the NYCTA is engaged in a pattern or practice of religious discrimination.
The Justice Department filed its complaint in September 2004 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. The complaint alleged that the NYCTA violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by selectively enforcing its uniform headwear policies against employees who are unable to comply for religious reasons and by failing or refusing to reasonably accommodate those employees whose religious practices require an accommodation from the NYCTA’s uniform headwear policies. Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin and religion.
According to the Justice Department’s complaint, the NYCTA had not enforced its uniform headwear policies prior to Sept. 11, 2001. However, beginning in or about March 2002, the NYCTA began to selectively enforce those policies against Muslim and Sikh employees, moving them or threatening to move them out of public contact positions because the employees, consistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs, refused to attach NYCTA logos to their khimars and turbans, respectively.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, which must still be approved by the court, the NYCTA must: (1) adopt new uniform headwear policies, which would allow employees working in public contact positions to wear khimars, yarmulkes, turbans, kufis, skullcaps, tams and headscarves without attaching anything to the headwear; (2) implement and distribute a new religious accommodation policy consistent with Title VII’s requirement to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of all employees and prospective workers; and (3) provide guidance to and ensure that training is completed by the NYCTA personnel responsible for implementing the agency’s new religious accommodation policy and procedure. Additionally, the NYCTA will pay $184,500, divided among eight current and former NYCTA employees who were denied religious accommodations related to the NYCTA’s prior uniform headwear policies.
“This settlement agreement sends a clear message that the Department of Justice will not tolerate religious discrimination,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “I am pleased that the NYCTA has agreed to end its discriminatory practices that for years have forced employees to choose between practicing their religion and maintaining their jobs.”
The continued enforcement of Title VII has been and remains a priority for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available at its website at www.usdoj.gov/crt.