Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Suit Over Requirement To Remove Hijab For Booking Photo Moves Forward

In G.E. v. City of New York, (ED NY, Sept. 29, 2017), a New York federal district court refused to dismiss at summary judgment stage a free exercise claim by a Muslim woman who was required to remove her hijab for police booking photos.  Initially at the police precinct she was required to remove the head covering, but was allowed to do so in a private room with only a female photographer present.For a subsequent photo at Central Booking, she was required to remove her hijab with men present, despite her request to do so in a private room without men there.  The court said in part:
The City provides nothing in the way of record evidence (or for that matter, legal support) to explain why there were no alternative means of accommodating an arrestee’s religious beliefs at Central Booking at the time when G.E. was arrested – other than to recite the fact that the Central Booking camera was in a fixed location in view of both male and female detainees and staff. Nor does the City explain any resource, staff or other burdens the City would face were it to consider moving the camera, or providing some other accommodation. Not only are these factors central to the rational basis test itself, they are critical to the analysis here because the City did, in fact, change its policy to provide for such accommodation subsequent to G.E.’s arrest.
Various other claims by plaintiff were dismissed.