State prison officials will let a Muslim correction officer wear a skullcap while on duty as part of a settlement of a federal lawsuit that claimed it was unconstitutional for the state to refuse to make religious accommodations for prison guards.
The deal, announced Wednesday, came after the New York Civil Liberties Union last year filed a lawsuit on behalf of Abdus Samad N. Haqq, who said New York's Department of Correctional Services ordered him in 2005 to stop wearing a kufi to his job at a halfway house. A kufi is a knitted skullcap that carries religious significance for many Muslim men.
The U.S. Department of Justice's civil rights division later filed its own lawsuit on Haqq's behalf to force the correction department to overhaul its grooming regulations for uniformed guards. That lawsuit is pending.
The deal settling the NYCLU lawsuit was approved by U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. on Friday.
The commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, Brian Fischer, said in a statement Wednesday that resolving the case demonstrates the kind of "reasonable accommodations in the workplace" that need to be made regarding religious beliefs....
The case is one of several brought in recent years challenging policies restricting religious head coverings at work.
In 2004, a Sikh police officer won the right to wear a turban while directing traffic after complaining to the city's human rights commission. In 1999, two Newark, N.J., police officers won a court battle so they could have short beards.
A year ago, U.S. Coast Guard officials retired a rule requiring anyone seeking a merchant marine license to submit photographs containing no religious head coverings. The action came after the NYCLU challenged the Coast Guard in court. [Link]
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