Sikh Employee Becomes Unwilling Poster Boy for Metropolitan Transit Authority Turban Policy

July 13, 2006

Source: The New York Sun

On July 13, 2006 The New York Sun reported, "A Sikh transit authority employee has unwillingly emerged as the poster boy for the very dress code he says violates his religious freedom.

The station agent, Trilok Arora, 68, and four other agents sued the Metropolitan Transit Authority last year over its requirement that they wear an MTA logo on their turbans.

Regardless, the MTA has recently issued a brochure describing the dress code that includes a photo of Mr. Arora sporting an MTA-branded turban, according to court filings. In a telephone interview, Mr. Arora said he is embarrassed to appear in print representing a policy that he opposes. In fact, Mr. Arora regularly flouts the dress code, pinning the logo to his blue turban only when a supervisor orders him to do so, he said.

Since May, employment attorneys for the Department of Justice � which filed its own lawsuit against the dress code � have sent four letters to federal court protesting the transit authority's use of Mr. Arora as a model for the logo-laden turban.

Mr. Arora's lawsuit alleges that the MTA is lax about enforcing its dress code prohibiting employees from wearing Yankees and Mets caps, but targets Sikhs to hassle them about their religious headwear. His lawyers claim that the MTA has no right to place its 'corporate brand' on the religious garments of its employees.

'This is beyond obnoxious,' an attorney for Mr. Arora, Amardeep Singh, said of the recent dress code bulletin. 'The MTA is thumbing it right in your face by showing you just how well it can make you violate your religion,' Mr. Singh, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, said."