The NYPD isn’t the only city agency embroiled in controversy over its treatment of Muslims. The MTA announced on Wednesday that it’s settled a 2004 discrimination suit brought by the Justice Department after Muslim and Sikh employees were moved to nonpublic positions when they refused to display an MTA logo on their religious headgear. From now on, employees are free to wear religious head coverings, as long as they’re blue, like their uniforms.
The MTA has a long-standing policy that workers can only wear hats bearing the agency’s logo, as The Wall Street Journal reports. The rule was briefly relaxed post-9/11 when many employees wanted to wear hats supporting the NYPD and FDNY, but then the agency started cracking down. Though the MTA insists it was “never animated by religious or ethnic bias,” a Justice Department investigation found employees routinely wear hats, but no workers were transferred for donning winter hats or Yankees caps.
The MTA has agreed to pay the eight employees who were affected $180,000, and it may cover their legal fees as well. Yet, an MTA spokesman emphasized that the case was settled “with no finding or admission of liability” by the agency. The MTA says it was only concerned that riders wouldn’t be able to recognize employees in an emergency. Plaintiff Kevin Harrington, a Sikh train operator, refused to accept that argument. After all, he managed to reverse a lower Manhattan-bound train on 9/11 and lead passengers to safety while wearing a logo-free turban on his head.