Q: Hi Jill. Please advise how a turban/head gear is an obstacle in getting or keeping a job in administration and human resources.

The employee has it all: Canadian experience, post- secondary education, speaks English fluently, a great personality etc. Is it compulsory for him to compromise on his turban in our so-called multicultural society?


gurinder singh

A: Hello Gurinder. Certainly a job seeker has full rights to wear their turban with religious significance in any place of employment.

You might be familiar with the August 2005 Canadian Pacific Railway situation, in which a group of Sikh truck drivers had an issue with having to wear safety hard hats on the job in lieu of their turbans.

Or maybe you recall the 1985 Bhinder vs. Canadian National Railway case. In both incidents, employees were initially not willing to compromise their religious views (i.e. wearing their turbans) at their place of employment even though there were inherent injury risks on the job.

As laws today have it, wearing your turban at your place of employment is within your human rights.

However, should it be established that hard hats are an occupational requirement for your safety on the job, then your physical safety does take precedent in a court of law.

Now, I think both of us can agree that working in an office performing administration and human resources duties is a far cry from the potential occupational hazards at a railway. Any employer who demands an employee to remove their turban to “fit in” more with the “look”of the office is practising direct discrimination ignoring employee Human Rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code (see www.ohrc.on.caor call 1-800-387-9080).

Remember, discrimination doesn’t have to be intentional for it to be wrong. It is the effect of the behaviour that is important.

According to the code, employers must make dress code exceptions in the case of religious attire, allow for periods of prayer at specific times during the day and must permit employee absences during religious holidays.

These are not employee luxuries; they are rights. So Gurinder, whether you’re writing about your own situation or that of someone you know, the employee is totally in the driver’s seat here.

Obviously this employer is hoping that petty intimidation will prevent the employee from maintaining their rights. Well you just remind them of a little thing called the OHRC.

If an employer’s only factual complaint is your turban, that is not adequate grounds either for termination or for not hiring you in the first place. It’s also not proper for an employer to discriminate after you’ve entered a job interview — you could file a complaint about that kind of behaviour, too.

Now, as for your reference to “head gear,” when it comes to baseball caps and other attempts at hat-related fashion, don’t be tempted: that sort of head gear isn’t appropriate in a professional workplace.

Jill Andrew — CYW, BA, BA (Hons.), BEd. Please include your full name, address and telephone number when e-mailing. All letters are subject to publication.


jill’s tip of the week

Staying in touch electronically can’t replace the human interaction in an office setting.

• It’s easy for those who work from home to feel disconnected from the company. It’s up to both management and the employee to create check-in hours where both sides can update the other on what’s happening and how they feel about their work contributions. Regardless of how convenient working via the Internet might seem, nothing replaces the communication nor the sense of loyalty established through the traditional office setting.

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