Interfor seeks to resolve conflict of safety regulations and religion
International Forest Products says it has offered to find new positions at identical wages for turbaned employees who have been off the job since a new hard-hat policy was implemented last November.
Interfor vice-president Ric Slaco said the company has been willing to work with its employees to resolve the apparent conflict between a new safety regulation and some baptized Sikh employees who don't want to cover their turbans with hard hats.
Employees Mander Singh Sohal and Kalwant Singh Sahota have filed a human rights complaint of religious discrimination against Interfor because of the new hard-hat rule forcing them from their specific jobs at Interfor's Delta sawmill.
Sohal -- who started with Interfor in 1988 -- has been offered back wages to November and a different job in the receiving department, while Sahota -- who is off on disability leave -- will also be accommodated when he is ready to return to work, Slaco said.
"We have tabled through the union an accommodation offer," he said in an interview Tuesday after The Vancouver Sun revealed details of the human rights complaint.
But David Perry, a lawyer for the two men, said he has not been contacted directly by Interfor with any offer for Sohal and Sahota.
And he said the issue still needs to be resolved by a human rights tribunal so there is a precedent for the entire community and other employers.
Slaco said the stricter hard-hat policy was implemented after a strike ended last November because of health and safety concerns expressed by a number of interested parties. [Link]
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