The city’s Commission on Human Rights has settled a 17-month-old lawsuit against seven Hasidic-owned stores in Williamsburg that posted signs asking customers to dress modestly.
The stores faced fines totaling as much as $75,000 for asking people entering not to come in “sleeveless” or with a “low-cut neckline.” Such restrictions violate city law by restricting entry to only certain classes of customers, the commission said.
But on Tuesday, three weeks into the new administration, officials came up with a very simple solution: The stores could put up signs saying that modesty is appreciated as long as they added that everyone was welcome to shop.
Human Rights Commissioner Patricia L. Gatling insisted that the old signs “discriminated against women.” But she added that the commission is now satisfied that the store owners understand their obligations under the law.
The merchants, who have consistently
maintained that the dress code was religion-based, declared the settlement a victory.
“I am gratified that this case is finally over and that the seven small businesses of Lee Avenue have been vindicated,” said Rabbi David Niederman, president of the United Jewish Organizations Williamsburg.
“It was an outrage for this case to be brought in the first place.
“If you go to a upscale restaurant, there is a dress code. Yet when small businesses in Williamsburg do the same, they are attacked and threatened with fines that would put them out of business?” Niederman said.
Mayor de Blasio dodged questions Tuesday about the sudden change. “We want to respect every community in everything we do,” he said.