‘No-beard’ mandate: Toronto apologises, terminated Sikh security guards to be reinstated

Edited By: Nikhil Pandey
NEW DELHI Updated: Jul 06, 2022, 04:50 PM(IST)

Representative photograph. Photograph:( Reuters )

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The City of Toronto has formally apologized to the World Sikh Organization of Canada for “any delay” in reinstating the Sikh security guard whose services were terminated over a “no-beard” policy.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada has received a formal apology from the City of Toronto for "any delay" in rehiring the Sikh security guards whose employment was terminated due to a "no-beard" policy. According to a formal statement, as a fair accommodation for people who maintain facial hair as a tenet of their faith, the city will immediately enable "under-mask beard covers" starting effective Tuesday (local time).

Additionally, it has demanded that any Sikh security guards who have asked for religious accommodations be granted, as well as the reinstatement of any employee whose job was terminated by contracted security service providers.

Notably, the World Sikh Organization of Canada had asked the City of Toronto to modify the requirement that all security officers be clean-shaven.

In its article, the Toronto Sun cited WSO as claiming that more than 100 Sikh security guards had been fired from their jobs at City of Toronto locations due to the need that they be clean-shaven in order to wear N95 masks.

In shelter settings where a COVID-19 outbreak is suspected or confirmed, contracted staff who keep facial hair were not fitted for protective N95 respirators as required by public health directives.

According to WSO Legal Counsel Balpreet Singh, who was quoted by The Toronto Sun, private contractors who employed the guards claimed that they were adhering to city orders. However, after the guards were informed that they could request an exemption based on religious requirements, their employers either moved them to lower-paying positions or fired them rather than comply with the city's demands.

The City of Toronto issued a statement in response to the group's complaint.

As of Tuesday, the City of Toronto announced that it will immediately authorise "under-mask beard covers" as a suitable accommodation choice for anyone who must be present at City locations with protective N95 respirator requirements and maintain facial hair as a tenet of their faith.

This includes paid security personnel stationed at City shelter locations. Applying a tight-fitting mask over a beard to cover the chin, cheeks, and top of the head in a knot is known as a "under-mask beard covering."

The lid is then covered with a N95 mask. Many Sikhs in the medical field employ the method, also known as the Singh Thattha Method, which has been proven to be quite successful for checking respirator fit.

Toronto also expressed regret for any delay in resolving this matter and assuring security contractors were providing religious accommodations to the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

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