Starting Oct. 8, New York employers can’t refuse to hire, retain, promote or take other discriminatory action against a person for wearing attire or facial hair in accordance with the tenets of their religion, under legislation (2019 Ch. 154, S 4037 and A 4204) signed by the governor on Aug 11. The new measure amends the New York State Human Rights Law, which already prohibits employers from treating applicants or employees differently because of their religious beliefs and requires reasonable accommodation for an employee’s religious practices.
In February, the New York City Commission on Human Rights issued guidance stating that employer policies on appearance and grooming that ban natural hair or hairstyles constitute unlawful discrimination under the city’s Human Rights Law. California became the first state to enact a similar law. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) maintains that some workplace grooming policies may run afoul of the protection against racial or religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- 2019 Ch. 154 (S 4037 and A 4204), Discrimination Against Religious Attire (New York Legislature, Aug. 9, 2019)
- Press Release (New York Governor’s Office, Aug. 9, 2019)
- New York State Human Rights Law (New York Division of Human Rights)
- 2019 Ch. 58, An Act Relating to Discrimination (California Legislature, July 3, 2019)
- Legal Enforcement Guidance on Race Discrimination on the Basis of Hair (New York City Commission on Human Rights, Feb. 26, 2019)
- Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities (EEOC, March 6, 2014)
- Compliance Manual on Race and Color Discrimination, Section 15.VII.B5 (EEOC, April 19, 2006)