Tag Archives: Anti-Discrimination Laws

Becket Fund on the Hasidic Dress Code Controversy

Eric Rassbach of the Becket Fund writes about NYC’s lawsuit against Hasidic-owned stores in Brooklyn. The city’s lawsuit alleges that the stores’ dress code discriminates against women. CLR Forum covered the story here.

NYC Sues Hasidic Shopkeepers Over Dress Codes

New York City residents have lots to worry about. The city’s outstanding debt exceeds $100 billion. The interest alone exceeds $6 billion annually. The city’s tax base continues to shrink as businesses, fed up with New York’s high rates, flee to lower-tax jurisdictions. The city’s infrastructure desperately needs an upgrade. And Hasidic shopkeepers in Brooklyn are engaged in a blatant campaign to violate customers’ human rights.

At least that’s what the city’s human rights commission argues. The commission is suing Hasidic shopkeepers who have hung signs in their windows stating, “No shorts, no barefoot, no sleeveless, no low cut neckline allowed in this store.” The commission argues that this dress code discriminates against women in violation of the city’s public accommodations law. According to the deputy commissioner, the signs are “pretty specific to women,” and requiring women to “dress modestly if they come into the store” is illegal.

Now, generally speaking, anti-discrimination laws allow public accommodations to have dress codes, as long as the codes don’t discriminate against protected classes. On its face, it’s not clear how this dress code is discriminatory. It treats men and women the same. Let’s say a barefoot woman wearing shorts walks into a store. She may be asked to leave. Let’s say a barefoot man in shorts tries to do the same thing. He also may be asked to leave. Where’s the discrimination? Now, it’s true that the stores might apply a facially neutral dress code in a discriminatory way.  So, for example, if the shopkeepers in practice excluded only women, that would be a problem. According to the stores’ lawyer, though, there’s no evidence that the stores have ever excluded any woman–or man, for that matter– for any reason.

In short, it’s not clear where the illegality lies. But there’s a deeper point. New York is a cosmopolitan city  in which people with very different lifestyles must find some way to get along. Mostly, New Yorkers do that by tolerating things that offend us. That works fine, most of the time. Maybe these religious storeowners should simply put up with dress they find immodest in the interests of a more expressive society. But is it really too much to ask someone to abide by this fairly innocuous dress code before going into a store, if that’s what the store owner wants? Is the injustice really so great that the store owner must be hauled into court and taught a lesson? Aren’t there more important problems for the city to tackle?

Sugary soft drinks, for instance.

Haverkort-Speekenbrink, “European Non-Discrimination Law”

Intersentia Publishing has published European Non-Discrimination Law: A Comparison of EU Law and the ECHR in the Field of Non-Discrimination and Freedom of Religion in Public Employment with an Emphasis on the Islamic Headscarf Issue by Sarah Haverkort-Speekenbrink.  The publisher’s description follows.European Non-Discrimination Law

Contemporary multicultural issues in Europe raise the question whether the overlap between the non-discrimination regimes of the European Union (EU) and the Council of Europe in the field of public employment may lead to conflicting case law. Would the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) address potential sex, race and religious discrimination in a similar manner or would the Courts take a different approach?

This study consists of three parts. Firstly, an analysis is presented of the EU non-discrimination Directives 2006/54, 2000/43 and 2000/78, and the ECJ’s assessment in cases of alleged sex, race and religious discrimination in the public workplace. Secondly, the non-discrimination provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the right to freedom of religion are studied. Further, the ECtHR’s assessment in cases involving potential discrimination in the public workplace based on sex, race and religion are examined. In the final part a comparison is made between the provisions and the assessment of the ECJ and the ECtHR.

Besides an examination of European legislation, case law and academic literature, this research also uses a legal case study to explore the similarities and differences between the non-discrimination regimes. Accordingly, the theory is again discussed, but now in light of a much debated issue in Europe: the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in public employment. The result of the study is a detailed explanation of the relevant similarities and differences between the approaches of the two Courts to claims of discrimination.