Part of what makes New York so special is the diversity of its population. Most of the time, people of different religions in New York are able to work together respectfully and without incident. However, there are times when religious discrimination in the workplace allegedly occurs.
Pax Assist, a contractor for John. F. Kennedy International Airport that helps passengers with wheelchairs, is facing allegations of religious discrimination. According to the New York City Human Rights Commission, Pax Assist did not allow Muslim workers to take prayer breaks or allow Muslim workers to take breaks for meals after the workers had fasted for Ramadan. Muslim workers were reportedly told that they would get a break period “on our time” not the worker’s. Muslim workers were also reportedly told that their employer didn’t care about Ramadan.
As of right now, three workers have stated they were discriminated against. One worker reports she was only given a break to pray when she threatened to let the union know what was happening. Another worker reported that she was not allowed to take a break after 8:00 p.m. so she could break her Ramadan fast. However, an investigation by the New York City Human Rights Commission is ongoing.
If these allegations are confirmed, Pax Assist could face a $250,000 civil penalty, along with the possibility of having to compensate workers who were wrongfully terminated. The New York City Human Rights Commission and Pax Assist could attempt to resolve the charges through negotiations. If that fails, an administrative law judge will hear the case. After hearing the case, the ALJ will issue a recommendation, which will then be considered by the New York City Human Rights Commission.
It remains to be seen what will happen in this case, but, what is certain is that acts of religious discrimination in the workplace should not be tolerated. Those in New York who have experienced unlawful employment discrimination should take the steps necessary to address the situation and protect their rights, including consulting with an attorney if necessary.
Source: USA Today, “NYC alleges religious discrimination by JFK airport contractor,” Bart Jansen, Jan. 25, 2017