ECBAWM, S.T.O.P. Reach $17.5M Settlement in NYPD ‘Hijab Removal’ Class Action

  • April 5, 2024

Today, plaintiffs moved to approve a $17.5 million settlement in their class action lawsuit against the NYPD for forcing suspects to remove the hijab and other religious attire for mugshots. Under the proposed settlement, which still requires approval by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, more than 3,600 class members will be eligible for payments of approximately $7,000 to $13,000. The settlement comes nearly four years after the NYPD agreed to change its policy on religious head coverings and as the NYPD faces allegations it illegally retains mugshots as part of its facial recognition surveillance program. This class is represented by Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP (ECBAWM), a leading civil rights law firm, and the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P.), a New York-based privacy and civil rights group.

“Forcing someone to remove their religious clothing is like a strip search. This substantial settlement recognizes the profound harm to the dignity of those who wear religious head coverings that comes from forced removal,” said ECBAWM Partner O. Andrew F. Wilson. “Anyone who was subjected to this policy can now receive compensation for harm in the past. And the changes to the prior policy we have already obtained will protect New Yorkers in the future.”

“Stripping away an individual’s religion during an arrest adds indignity to an already traumatic experience. While the NYPD cannot turn back the clock, it can compensate people for violating their religious rights,” said ECBAWM Associate Sana Mayat.

“This is a milestone for New Yorkers’ privacy and religious rights,” said Surveillance Technology Oversight Project Executive Director Albert Fox Cahn. “The NYPD should never have stripped these religious New Yorkers of their head coverings and dignity. This wasn’t just an assault on their rights, but on everything our city claims to believe in. After 6 years and endless hours of litigation, I’m so proud that we can finally help the thousands of New Yorkers the NYPD targeted. It’s crucial that anyone who had their head covering removed between 3/16/2014 and 8/23/2021 submit a claim and get compensation. Money can’t fully undo this trauma, but it sends a powerful message that the NYPD can’t violate New Yorkers’ First Amendment rights without paying a price.”

“When they forced me to take off my hijab, I felt as if I were naked, I’m not sure if words can capture how exposed and violated I felt,” said plaintiff Jamilla Clark. “I’m so proud today to have played a part in getting justice for thousands of New Yorkers. This settlement proves I was right all those years ago when I said it was wrong to remove my hijab for a mugshot. I hope no New Yorker ever has to experience what I went through.”

The civil rights groups urge anyone who believes that they were impacted by the policy and forced by the NYPD to remove their head covering for a mugshot between March 16th, 2014 and August 23rd, 2021 to file a notice at

Class Website:

“New York to Pay $17.5 Million for Forcing Removal of Hijabs in Mug Shots,” NY Times
“2 Muslim women were forced to remove hijabs for mug shots. NYC will pay $17.5M to settle their suit,” Associated Press
“New York City to pay $17.5 million for forcing women to remove hijabs for mug shots,” Reuters
“NYC agrees to $17.5 million settlement over forced removal of hijabs for mugshot photos,” Courthouse News Service

Settlement Agreement