landmark civil rights victory by NRI Sikhs in US
to wear turban and beard as security officers
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2009
In what is seen as a landmark civil rights victory for the Sikh
community, the US government has allowed Sikhs to serve as federal
security officers while keeping their turbans and beards.
The reversal of a ban comes after a discrimination case filed
by a Sikh security officer who was told that he could not keep his
turban and beard on the job, Sikh Coalition, a community advocacy
group said Tuesday.
The lawsuit settlement and change in policy are a major civil rights
victory for the Sikh community. It marks the first time that a federal
law enforcement agency has changed policy to accommodate the Sikh
articles of faith, it said.
The lawsuit that led to the settlement was brought jointly by the
Sikh Coalition, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco
Bay Area on a complaint from Raghbir Singh, who goes by the name
of “Major Gill”.
Major Gill, who served in the Indian Army for almost 34 years,
immigrated with his family to the US in 2004 and obtained a position
with a company called NCLN20 in 2005 and began serving on its government
contract with the Federal Protective Service (FPS)for guarding a
federal building in Fresno.
However, FPS’s uniform and grooming policies prohibited Major
Gill from wearing a turban or keeping a beard on the job. Under
these policies, contract security officers had to wear a uniform
hat and be clean-shaven.
Major Gill requested that the government accommodate his Sikh articles
of faith. However, FPS refused and forced him off the contract.
Because NCLN20 had no other security officer positions, the company
Major Gill reached out to the Sikh Coalition for help in Nov 2005.
Through his case, the Coalition said it was able to push FPS to
change its uniform and grooming policies to accommodate Sikh articles
As a result, Sikhs can now serve as contract security guards with
the federal government with unshorn hair, beards, turbans, and kirpans
“Holding the federal government accountable for discriminating
against Sikhs sends a strong message to private employers. If the
government includes Sikh Americans in its workforce, then other
employers are encouraged to do the same,” said Harsimran Kaur,
Legal Director at the Sikh Coalition. ......NRIpress.com/IANS