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New York State expands religious protections for attire, facial hair

An employer in New York State can't refuse to hire someone because of what that person wears, including religious clothing or attire.

The new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo expands the state's Human Rights Law, which already barred discrimination based on religion and required reasonable accommodation for religious practices.

Nasir Khan, general secretary of the Buffalo Chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, says it should particularly help Muslim women because of head scarves and sometimes face masks and some resistance to them working with the public.
"It is possible that they would say that. But, I have not come across an example on a personal level  but I'm sure that somewhere that they would have been subjected to certain discrimination on how they appear and what are they wearing," Khan said.

It isn't just Muslims who can face discrimination based on hair or dress. Rabbi Heschel Greenberg is founder and director of the Jewish Discovery Center. He says the new law might serve as a deterrent to job discrimination.

Khan, who is a physician, says he hasn't had problems with his patients.

"Most of them have a need to see me and they have known me for a very long time and I may not see that as often as a person who is in a different profession."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.