Last week, a group of 500 Sikh truck drivers in Canada threatened to file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission in an attempt to challenge a "hard hat" policy instituted by the Canadian Pacific Railways (CPR) . The policy, as described in a company memo:
Please be advised that as per CPR's Safety Policy, all drivers required to enter CPR property as well as customer locations are required to wear a hard hat. There are no exceptions to this policy.In objecting to this policy, a large group of Sikhs noted that there had been no injuries justifying the hart hat rule and that Sikhs even served in the British Army with turbans.
We understand that this might be a concern for some drivers who are required to wear turbans as part of their religious doctrine… There is zero tolerance at CPR with regards to this requirement.
A Canadian human rights commission found that a Sikh had been discriminated against in a similar situation, however the Supreme Court of Canada, in Bhinder v. Canadian National Railways, 1985 CarswellNat 144, 9 C.C.E.L. 135 (S.C.C.), overturned the decision, ruling that employers do not infringe upon human rights law when they ban Sikhs from wearing turbans on the job "for genuine business reasons." The court continued:
The hard hat rule did not lose its character as a bona fide occupational requirement solely because it had the effect of discriminating against (Bhinder) … once established as a bona fide occupational requirement for employees in (CN’s) coach yard, the hard hat rule was not a discriminatory practice within the meaning of the act, despite its affect on (Bhinder.)
Reports are now surfacing that CPR has "agreed to negotiate with the drivers over the wearing of turbans versus hard hats." Accordingly, the "Sikh truck drivers will not file a complaint." Hopefully an amicable settlement can be reached between the two sides.
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