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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Sikhs file grievance over mandatory hard hat rule

Two Sikh men in B.C. have filed a grievance against their employer after a new rule required all employees to wear a hard hat while on the job.

The two men, Mander Singh Sohal and Kalwant Sahota, worked at a sawmill for International Forest Products (Interfor), but were escorted off the job when Sohal refused to abide by the new rule.

"These gentlemen have essentially lost their jobs simply because they wear a turban," their lawyer, David Perry, said Tuesday.

"It's against my religion," Sohal said, even dismissing wearing a hardhat over his turban.

"I won't put anything above my turban."

The men have filed a complaint with the B.C. human rights tribunal.

It's an argument -- faith verses safety -- that has been heard before in Canada. Last month, an Ontario court ruled that Baljinder Badesha had to wear a helmet in place of a turban while riding his motorcycle.

However, in B.C., Sikhs are exempt from motorcycle and bicycle helmet laws.

A union rep, Jazz Dhillon, said some Sikhs abided by the rule by stripping the lining out of the hard hats and putting it over their turban.

But he said they weren't comfortable doing so.

In B.C., helmets must be worn in any workplace where is potential for a head injury but employers must accommodate their workers.

Interfor says they are doing so, saying they found some jobs for the men in the receiving department.

"Other Sikhs that are working on our mills, still wear a turban and wear a hard hat on top," Rick Slaco of Interfor said.

But the men said they didn't know the details of any new job and it would have to be one where their faith was respected.

Interfor has until April 9 to respond to the grievance. [Link]

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