City Says Policy Against Sleeveless Shirts, Low-Cut Necklines Targets Women

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A request for modest attire has led to a charge of unlawful discrimination.

As a result some Jewish shopkeepers are ready to square off against New York City in court. Sam Gold said he can’t believe the city is taking him to court over a sign posted last summer at his store in the Hasidic enclave of Williamsburg.

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“I was astonished, amazed. I mean, why should they even look at those signs?” Gold asked CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

That sign Gold referred to is a customer dress code calling for no shorts, no sleeveless shirts and no low-cut necklines.

It is a reflection of the modesty in attire that Hasidic Jews feel is their religious obligation. Gold said despite the sign, he would not turn away a customer who didn’t adhere to the dress code.

“No, never, never, we’re here to do business. No, not at all,” Gold said.

But the city’s Human Rights Commission said that doesn’t matter, calling the mere posting of the sign “unlawful discrimination” for “refusing the patronage of those who are female and of the non-Orthodox Jewish faith.”

The city claims signs singling out “sleeveless” attire and “low-cut necklines” clearly target women.

Lawyer Marc Stern with the American Jewish Committee disagreed.

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“They simply presume that Hasidic Jews hate women and are really telegraphing that women have special requirements that men don’t. Men can come in any way they want, these are only aimed at women. The signs don’t say that. There’s no evidence that anybody read them that way,” Stern said.

The city said it did receive complaints from people in the neighborhood. On Friday, some residents had reactions of their own.

“Nobody can tell me what to do. I’m a free person, it’s America,” one woman said.

“They were wrong for putting the signs up, period!” one man said.

“As females, we should know how to dress properly,” another woman said.

The case goes to court in June.

A total of six Jewish business are named in the discrimination complaint. If found guilty, they potentially face thousands of dollars in fines.

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