Sikh security guards fired from Toronto city sites over facial hair policy

More than 100 Sikh security guards who, until recently, were stationed at City of Toronto properties, have been fired, moved or demoted to lower-ranking positions because they had too much body hair. face.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) released a statement on Monday morning calling on Mayor John Tory and the City Council to lift a new clean shave requirement, especially for Sikh employees “who maintain uncut hair as a tenet of their faith”.

“The City of Toronto’s new mandate requires all security guards to be equipped with N95 respirators that seal directly to the face. Facial hair is not permitted during fit testing,” says the organization, which argues that the policy results in “the exclusion of Sikh security guards” from city-owned sites.

Strangely, says the WSO, non-security personnel at those same sites were not asked to shave.

The City of Toronto explains this by pointing out that its policy does not apply to city staff, only contractors. Almost all security guards working on city sites do not actually work for the city, but for private companies that hire security services.

“Under City policy, all contractors must agree to abide by the Human Rights and Anti-Harassment and Discrimination Policy (HRAP) and applicable human rights law, and make a statement confirming compliance with these requirements,” reads a statement from the city sent to blogTO.

“The city is reviewing the complaint which alleges that certain contractors failed to accommodate their own employees regarding the city’s Shelter, Support, and Housing Administration (SSHA) division requirement for the use of N-95 masks for all staff and contractors who may come into contact with anyone who has or is suspected of having COVID-19.”

SSHA Division policy requires that anyone likely to use an N-95 mask be clean shaven for fit testing.

“It goes in the direction of the City Respiratory protection policy for all City divisions with situations where respirators may be required. SSHA policy allows for accommodations based on Accommodation policy“, notes the city. “Employees of contractors who request housing should have their request assessed, in accordance with the contractors’ human rights policies.

A member of the media relations team at GardaWorld, one of the city’s largest security contractors, told blogTO that all employees are required to follow health and safety guidelines put in place by each customer.

“One of our clients required that all employees working at their site wear a tested N95 mask to ensure its effectiveness,” the rep said, speaking clearly from the City of Toronto.

“In accordance with this standard, persons with a beard or facial deformity do not meet the fit test requirements. All GardaWorld employees who have not been able to meet this health and have been offered other equivalent opportunities within the organization until this measure is lifted.”

Star Security and ASP Security have not yet responded to requests for comment.

As for what’s next, the city says it has its own standardized process for dealing with complaints about contractors, “which requires contractors to review and respond to the complaint through the contractor’s appropriate internal process.”

WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu doesn’t seem keen on waiting for the city to process and revise everything – a task that often takes months or even years.

“It is totally unreasonable that Sikh security guards who held their positions with the City of Toronto at the height of the pandemic are now being fired, reassigned or demoted for not being clean-shaven,” he said in a statement.

“Mayor John Tory and the City of Toronto must find a solution for these Sikh security guards and other affected employees. Sikh guards who have been removed must be reinstated immediately…There is no reason for guards City of Toronto Sikh Security cannot be housed according to law.”