sikh security beard

Sikh security guards dismissed from jobs at City of Toronto sites over facial hair policy

More than 100 Sikh security guards who, until very recently, were stationed at City of Toronto properties, have been laid off, relocated or demoted to lower-ranking positions for having too much facial hair.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) issued a release Monday morning calling upon Mayor John Tory and City Council to lift a new clean shave requirement, specifically for Sikh employees "who maintain uncut hair as a tenet of their faith."

"The new City of Toronto mandate requires all security guards to be fitted for N95 respirators that seal directly on the face. Facial hair is not permitted when performing fit tests," explains the organization, which contends that the policy results in "the exclusion of Sikh security guards" from city-owned sites.

Strangely, says the WSO, non-security staff at these same sites have not been asked to shave.

The City of Toronto explains this by pointing out that its policy does not apply to city staff, only contractors. Pretty much all of the security guards working at city sites are not actually working for the city, but for private companies that rent out security services.

"Under City policy, all contractors must agree to abide by the City's Human Rights and Anti-Harassment/Discrimination Policy (HRAP) and applicable human rights legislation, and make a declaration to confirm 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 in relation to the City's Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) division's requirement for the use of N-95 masks for all staff and contractors who may come into contact with any person who has or is suspected of having COVID-19."

The SSHA divison's policy requires that anyone who may have to use an N-95 mask must be clean shaven for fit testing.

"This is consistent with the City's Respirator Protection policy for all City divisions with situations in which respiratory protective devices may be required. SSHA's policy allows for accommodations as per the City's Accommodation policy," notes the city. "Employees of contractors who seek accommodation should have their requests assessed, in accordance with the contractors own human rights policies.

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

"One of our clients required that all employees working at their locations wear a fit-tested N95 mask to ensure their efficacy," said the representative, clearly talking about the City of Toronto.

"As per this standard, individuals with a beard or facial deformity do not fulfill the requirements of the fit test. All GardaWorld employees who were unable to meet this health and safety client requirement were offered other and equivalent opportunities within the organization until this measure is lifted."

Star Security and ASP Security have yet to respond to requests for comment.

As for what's next, the city says that it has its own standardized process for addressing complaints about contractors, "which requires contractors to review and respond to the complaint under the contractor's appropriate internal process."

WSO president Tejinder Singh Sidhu doesn't seem keen to wait around for the city to process and review everything — a task which often takes months, if not years.

"It is completely unreasonable that Sikh security guards who served in their positions at the City of Toronto through the height of the pandemic are now being terminated, 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. Those Sikh guards who have been removed must be immediately reinstated... There is no reason why Sikh security guards at the City of Toronto cannot be accommodated in accordance with the law."

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez


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