A Rastafarian bus driver working in London has been banned from wearing a religious headscarf while at work, in a move described as “disappointing” and “discriminatory” by campaigners.
Marcia Carty, 54, had been working for Metroline at the Perivale Depot in Ealing for 11 years before she was told to stop wearing her red, gold and green turban.
The company asked Carty in July to change her headscarf to a colouring more compliant with its uniform policy. It said it allows staff members to practice their religion by wearing headscarves and turbans, provided these are in its “corporate colours”, the company said.
Carty has now launched a grievance against the request, telling the company that wearing the colours is necessary to properly observe her religion. She has now taken time off work due to stress.
On Thursday, a company spokesperson said the company was “not aware” of any previous instances of her failure to comply with uniform regulations, and it is as yet unclear if Carty has only recently started wearing the headscarf.
According to a statement by the trade union Unite, the bus driver suggested switching to wearing a predominantly dark blue headscarf with a smaller area containing the Rastafarian colours, in line with the policy, but this was refused by Metroline.
Red, gold and green represent central tenets of Rastafarianism and many devout followers of the religion opt to wear them in observation of the faith.
Last month, Unite issued a warning to Metroline asking that they abandon their request, which they say is discriminatory.
A Metroline spokesperson said it “respects religious diversity and this is evident in company policies and practices”.
A petition against Metroline’s decision is close to reaching over 12,000 signatures, with a demand that London Mayor Sadiq Khan intervene.
The bus company told HuffPost UK: “[At the grievance hearing] the company reviewed options for acceptable headgear and agreed to reimburse Ms Carty for the cost of purchasing head scarves that was compliant with our uniform policy - which is agreed and revised in consultation with our trade unions including Unite.
“As part of our procedure we gave her the opportunity to appeal this decision which she has now done.”
The company said it did not believe they are discriminating against her, as wearing red, gold and green is not a requirement of Rastafarianism.
Unite regional officer, Russ Ball, told HuffPostUK: “The response from the company is really disappointing.
“Marcia’s headwear isn’t obtrusive, it doesn’t offend anyone and the company’s decision certainly doesn’t reflect the diverse nature of London.
“While we acknowledge that we have input into the company’s dress policy, our interpretation is that within it there are provisions for religious purposes.
“Unite is now urgently looking at how to progress this matter and achieve a fair outcome for our member.”
Prominent activist Lee Jasper is supporting Carty and her family, and wrote in a recent blog post: “It’s long been argued by westerners that Rasta does not constitute a ‘real religion’ and, as a consequence, does not enjoy the protect of Human Rights legislation that seeks to protect only those ‘traditional’ faiths, considered to be the world’s mainstream religions.”
This follows a string of events which have caused concern about the treatment of Rastafarians across UK society.
In July, 22-year-old student Cheyanne Arnold was turned away from temping agency TempTribe because she has dreadlocks – a hairstyle widely associated with Rastafarianism.
In September 2017, 12-year-old schoolboy Chikayzea Flanders was removed from class on his first day of Fulham Boys secondary school and ordered to cut off his dreadlocks. The school argued that it was a breach of appearance policy.
On Wednesday Fulham Boys reversed its decision, following a judicial battle launched by Chikayzea’s mother.
In one of the most prominent cases of Rastafarian discrimination, south-east Londoner Trevor Dawkins was refused a job as a van driver because of his dreadlocks in 1993.
He refused to cut them when asked and eventually won an industrial tribunal against the company, after it was ruled that Rastafarians constituted a distinct ethic group and Dawkins was discriminated against under the Race Relations Act.
The decision was later appealed, successfully, and the ruling was reversed on the grounds that Rastafarianism was not part of a racial group.
Jamaican-born Carty is part of the Windrush generation and moved to the UK during childhood.
The Mayor of London’s office has been contacted for comment.