The Oklahoma Bankers Association has tweaked its recommended “no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses” security policy at banks after an incident at a Tulsa bank last year involving a woman customer wearing a religiously mandated head scarf, or hijab, raised discrimination claims.
The Oklahoma Bankers Association clarified the voluntary initiative, designed to boost safety at banks by making it easier to identify robbers, after meeting with the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma and the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The meeting was prompted in October when, at a Tulsa bank, a woman wearing a hajib was told she would have to be escorted into the bank because of the policy on head-covering attire. She and groups supporting her claimed the policy was discriminatory.
The ACLU and state CAIR chapter on Thursday praised the industry group for responding to those concerns.
“We are incredibly pleased that the OBA recognizes that respecting the religious requirements of their customers and ensuring a safe and secure banking environment can go hand in hand,” Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said in a statement.
Adam Soltani, executive director of state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said his group met with Oklahoma Bankers Association members to explain the different types of head coverings worn by Muslim women and those of other faiths.
Bankers Association Vice President Elaine Dodd said the “no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses” initiative has been successful at helping to reduce bank robberies while increasing the rate at which those crimes are cleared. But the industry group was encouraging member banks “to look at their policies and see what they can do to accommodate diversity.”
Mary Beth Guard, a Bankers Association attorney, recently addressed the topic in the group's industry newsletter, Oklahoma Banker.
“If someone came in with a ski mask to cash a check or open an account, you wouldn't hesitate to tell them they would need to remove it so you could take a gander at them, but when the head covering is worn for religious purposes, a more sensitive approach is required,” she wrote.
The Rev. William Tabbernee, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches, said he was delighted with the way the banking group handled the issue.
“It is wonderful that the OBA recognizes that concern for safety and the right of individuals to wear religious headdress are not mutually exclusive and that, accordingly, bank employees are being educated about the appropriate way to deal with the religious public,” he said.