Employees protest religious discrimination at JFK

Employees protest religious discrimination at JFK
Muslim employees of a contractor that service Terminal 4 at JFK are charging they have been harrassed by their bosses.
Photo by Michael Shain
By Patrick Donachie

Employees for a Kennedy Airport contractor accused of religious discrimination called on the airport’s management Wednesday to ensure that harassment of Muslim employees is not tolerated.

The group of employees, accompanied by representatives from the Airport Workers Organizing Committee and Imam Aiyub Abdul Baki of the Islamic Leadership Council in Manhattan, delivered letters to the manager of the airport’s Terminal 4, as well as representatives from Emirates Airlines and Etihad Airlines. The letters contended that supervisors at Pax Assist, Inc., an Arverne-based contractor servicing 32 airlines and employing more than 250 workers, allegedly harassed Muslim employees over a public radio address system.

New York City’s Human Rights Commission charged the company with alleged acts of discrimination last month, saying supervisors refused to let Muslim employees schedule their breaks to properly end their religious fasts. Supervisors also allegedly broadcast over a radio system: “We don’t care about Ramadan,” and “we’ll give you a break on our time, not your time.”

The letters delivered Wednesday also requested an opportunity for the aggrieved Pax Assist employees to meet with representatives from the airlines and Terminal 4 management.

“The NYC Human Rights Law recognizes the legal rights of employees of every faith to request and receive reasonable accommodation for religious observances so long as those accommodations do not cause an undue hardship on the employer,” the letters read.

Members of SEIU 32BJ heard about the allegations against Pax Assist from affected employees and informed the city’s Human Rights Commission, according to the letters. The Pax Assist employees designated a member of the union as their representative in communications with the airlines and Terminal 4 management.

The HRC has the authority to fine employers up to $250,000 in civil penalties if the commission uncovers “willful and malicious violations of the law,” and can award compensatory damages to victims.

Pax Assist did not respond to calls for comment.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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