It’s been over two weeks, but Regina Felder is still steamed about what went down at PennDot’s Photo & Exam Center at 8th and Arch, when she trekked there to renew her driver’s license.
When she sat in front of the camera to have her new photo taken, the male clerk asked Felder, twice, to adjust the silk neck scarf she was wearing. Finally, he told her to remove it for the photo.
Felder, a 48-year-old secretary at Drexel University, didn’t want to. She describes herself as a religiously devout, modest woman who always, always wears something at her neck. Without a scarf, or turtleneck, or nice piece of jewelry or other accessory, she feels “naked.”
Besides, she told me, she has old driver’s-license photos of herself, in which she’s wearing a scarf, so what was the deal? He could give her no reason, she says, but kept insisting she remove her silky neck accessory.
By the way, we’re talking about a simple, ladies’ scarf here, not a face-covering afghan of a muffler.
So I wondered, if Felder had been wearing a turtleneck sweater, would the clerk have asked her to remove that, too? If she’d been robed in conservative Muslim garb, what then? And while we’re at it, would the clerk have asked a man to remove his necktie for the snapshot?
“I asked him all of that,” says Felder. “He just said I couldn’t wear my scarf.”
Felder demanded to speak with the clerk’s supervisor, who reiterated the no-scarf policy. Felder finally relented when the clerk told her he'd be slapped with a two-day job suspension if he submitted a photo to PennDot that depicted Felder wearing her scarf.
Feeling humiliated and violated, but also out of options, Felder removed the scarf and exposed her neck. When she got back to work, she called PennDot’s customer-service line and spoke with a representative who was unable to find any rule in the agency's guidelines regarding ladies’ neckwear.
After Felder contacted the Daily News to vent, I called PennDot to ask about the no-scarf policy.
It doesn’t exist.
“We do not have any provision saying that a person cannot wear a scarf around their neck" in a driver's-license photo, said a concerned sounding Diana Henning, manager of PennDot’s License Control Division. Therefore, obviously, the clerk would’ve faced no suspension for snapping a photo of Felder wearing one.
Henning promised to contact Felder immediately and to track down the photo clerk who, perhaps, “needs some education” about PennDot’s photo policies.
Felder was delighted to hear that, and she plans to have her photo re-taken - with the offending scarf securely anchored around her neck.
Meantime, ladies, if you need an ID photo taken at PennDot’s 8th and Arch location, and a clueless clerk - I'll spare him the embarrassment of describing him here - demands you remove your neckwear, gimme a call, then hand your cell phone to the nudnik.
I’ll help him see the big picture on this.