After a complaint from the World Sikh Organization (WSO) of Canada over a controversial policy, the City of Toronto says it will ensure the contractors with whom it works will accommodate all employees.
The city had been in the process of investigating the troubling allegations made by the WSO and community members who said they had been discriminated against.
“These people’s lives have been thrown into chaos,” said Balpreet Singh, legal counsel for the World Sikh Organization of Canada. “It affected their salary, but it also affected their immigration status, for example.
“So this is a really bad situation, and to have it happen in Toronto is mind-blowing.”
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Singh spoke to Global News on Monday afternoon ahead of the city issuing a formal release pledging to take action.
The WSO said more than 100 people had been affected by a policy mandating guards at city-run sites be clean-shaven in order to properly don N95 respirators.
“It’s an impossible situation, having to choose between your faith or your livelihood,” Singh said.
In an email to Global News, Star Security Inc. President Jimi Bonotti said, “This is not a ‘clean shaven policy,’ rather the policy requires subcontractors to wear N95 masks pursuant to the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”
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Bonotti added that no employees had been terminated or demoted by his company due to their inability to comply with city policies.
GardaWorld responded that employees are required to follow health and safety guidelines put in place by each client.
“One of our clients required that all employees working at their locations wear fit-tested N95 mask to ensure their efficacy,” read the statement.
“All GardaWorld employees who were unable to meet this health and safety client requirement were offered other and equivalent opportunities within the organizations until such time as this measure was lifted.”
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The city examined allegations security guard contractors were not accommodating workers who have facial hair for religious reasons, and cannot wear protective N95 respirators, which are still required by public health directives in congregate settings such as shelters and respite centers.
“The City itself has granted seven accommodation requests to its own employees who have sought religious exemptions in shelter settings and fully expects such accommodations, if requested by contract employees, to also be granted by contractors to those employees,” a statement issued Monday evening reads .
It goes on to state that the city has directed contractors it works with to accommodate their employees who have requested religious exemptions, and to reinstate anyone whose employment was terminated immediately.
“As part of its investigation, the City will be looking at its legal options, up to and including terminating the contracts of any contractors found to be in violation of City policy or human rights legislation. The City does not tolerate, ignore, or condone discrimination, and is committed to promoting respectful conduct, tolerance and inclusion, always, ”it continues.
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