City Of Toronto Has A Rule Against Facial Hair & It's Reportedly Driving Out Sikh Workers

Security guards are allegedly required to have a "clean shave."

Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto.

Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto.

The City of Toronto has allegedly instituted a rule that security guards must have a "clean shave." This is impacting job security and opportunities for Sikh workers.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) put out a call to action statement on July 4, urging the city to rectify the issue. They claim that over 100 Sikh workers have been laid off or sent to different work sites by contractors like GardaWorld, Star Security and ASP Security.

"The City of Toronto has recently instituted a 'clean shave' requirement for all security guards on city sites resulting in the exclusion of Sikh security guards who maintain uncut hair as a tenet of their faith," reads the statement.

"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," says WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu.

"Visitors to City of Toronto sites are not required to mask, and City staff are also not being asked to be clean shaven. It is unacceptable that the City of Toronto is unwilling to accommodate over 100 dedicated Sikh security guards who are committed to doing their jobs," the WSO president adds.

The purpose of the rule

"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," per the statement.

WSO claims some workers who have been moved off city sites for having facial hair have seen salary cuts and demotions in their positions.

The organization reached out to city council members and Mayor John Tory for an "urgent resolution" to the situation on June 7 and says they have yet to receive a response.

The City of Toronto told Narcity in an email that they are aware of WSO's statement but that "the guards impacted work for city contractors, not the City of Toronto's Corporate Security."

"The City has received a complaint about a few of its security guard contractors. 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."

The city says they are reviewing these complaints which allege that some contractors have not provided accommodations to their employees for the city's Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA) policy. This policy requires "staff and contractors who may come into contact with any person who has or is suspected of having COVID-19" to wear an N95 mask and be fitted for one with a clean shave.

SSHA's policy does allow for accommodation under the city's Accommodation Policy

However, the city says, "employees of contractors who seek accommodation should have their requests assessed, in accordance with the contractor's own human rights policies."

The city also said the "standardized process" for looking into contractor complaints "requires contractors to review and respond to the complaint" in their own internal process.

Contractors' role

ASP Security told Narcity in an email that they were advised that the city of Toronto would require their Respite Security Guards to wear N95 face masks "as part of their COVID-19 safety protocols on-site."

"This requires a fit test which a person cannot pass if their face is not clean shaven. At ASP we have had accommodation requests from existing guards and we accommodate employees in other roles as appropriate."

ASP Security also said they have started to disclose the rule in their hiring practices for guards and are letting them know ahead of time, as they will have to be clean-shaven to meet the N95 face mask requirement.

GardaWorld told Narcity in an email that one of their clients requires "all employees working at their locations wear fit-tested N95 mask to ensure their efficacy," and that "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 organizations until such time as this measure is lifted," they added.

Narcity reached out to Star Security for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Brooke Houghton
Brooke Houghton is a contributing writer for Narcity Media based in Toronto, Ontario.