Sikh workers not exempt from safety hats

A Quebec judge admits the ruling violates employee rights but says health and safety still takes precedence.

Sikh workers not exempt from safety hats
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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