Muslim bus driver finishes ahead in dress code dispute

Driver sent home for wearing religious cap at work gets dress code exemption after week off work
|employmentlawtoday.com

An Ontario bus driver has been allowed to return to work after being sent home for wearing a head cap according to his religion.

McGregory Jackman, 43, began working for Veolia Transportation Inc., a company contracted to run York Region’s VIVA public transit system, in early March. As a Muslim, Jackman wore a kufi — a religious head cap — to work.

Problems arose two weeks into Jackman’s employment when he was told by a Veolia inspector headgear was a violation of the dress code. Jackman was surprised because, although the standard dress code for VIVA uniforms doesn’t permit headgear, he had seen a notice indicating an exception for “religious observances.” He continued to wear the kufa and even bought one that matched his VIVA uniform.

However, on March 16, Jackman’s supervisor told him Veolia doesn’t allow hats and he had to remove the kufi or he wouldn’t be allowed to work. Jackman refused to take it off and he was removed from the bus.

Jackman tried to get an exemption on religious grounds but Veolia and York Region each told him it was the other’s decision. After a week of not working and making no progress, Jackman brought his case to a diversity advocate and threatened to file a human rights complaint.

On March 25, York Region addressed the issue, saying Jackman would be exempt from the headgear and be allowed to work wearing his kufi. Veolia would also pay him for the week of work he missed.

Jackman was pleased the situation was resolved to his benefit but told Sun Media he didn’t want anyone else to have to go through the same thing.

“If I can get them to look at their policy and get people to be treated fairly — it’s better than an apology,” he said.

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