Sikh workers not exempt from safety hats

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A Quebec judge who ruled Sikh workers must wear safety helmets has admitted the decision violates employee rights but says, in this case, health and safety is more important.

“The risks are not lower because the claimants are Sikh and wear turbans,” Superior Court Justice Andre Prevost wrote in his decision.

“The safety obligations of the defendants are not less stringent, either, towards the claimants than towards other workers,” he added.

Prevost was presiding over a case in which three Port of Montreal employees argued that they had a right to wear a turban instead of a helmet based on Quebec and Canadian charter rights protecting freedom of religion.

Initially, an accommodation was put in place allowing the Sikh drivers to stay in their trucks while containers were loaded but the system was deemed commercially unviable because it increased loading time.

Ultimately, Prevost agreed the port’s rules were justified because they protect workers from potentially fatal injuries.

The defendants – who had argued they were victims of religious discrimination after they were banned from entering the port terminals without protective headgear – have 30 days to appeal the decision.
 
  • Written with contributions from the Canadian Press

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  • Singh on 2016-09-24 12:17:44 PM

    As a turbaned Sikh myself, I still believe that the whole community is not in agreement over this issue. On one hand, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs fought in the world wars and they did so without helmets. On the other hand, health and safety should take precedence over religious accommodation, undoubtedly! Don't think there is an easy answer to that. Personally, I would choose a hard hat for my own safety but I'm not judging others who don't agree with it.
    My only hope is that this doesn't become another issue to beat the "immigrants don't fit into our culture" rhetoric drum.

  • Charmaine on 2016-09-26 9:50:55 AM

    Thank you Singh for your comment. It is very insightful.
    I do agree that at the end of the day the worker's safety is of the utmost importance.

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