According to some interpretations of federal law, employers with 'corporate image' policies can hide Sikhs from customers. In other words, some courts have effectively given employers permission to tell a Sikh that his or her face is not fit to be seen by customers and should be hidden in a backroom out of public view. The Sikh Coalition finds this offensive and contrary to the integrative purposes of civil rights law. We are trying to put an end to this modern-day version of the 'separate but equal' doctrine through direct outreach to our nation's leaders, and we now call upon you to spare a few seconds of your time and sign a petition letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to join the fight.
Dear President Obama:
As a supporter of civil rights, I am writing to express concern about troubling misinterpretations of federal employment discrimination law. Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace, some federal courts have misinterpreted Title VII in ways that allow employers to segregate Sikhs, Muslims, and Jews from customers in the name of ‘corporate image’ policies.
In one case involving a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf, a court improperly assumed that segregating her from customers did not constitute an “adverse employment action” relating to “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” or deprive her of “employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect [her] status as an employee.” In another case, a court held that an employer satisfied its Title VII obligation to make a “reasonable” accommodation of a turbaned Sikh employee by offering him positions out of public view.
I am troubled by these misinterpretations and the discriminatory impact they have on individuals whose religious observance encompasses adherence to dress and grooming requirements. I believe that segregating such individuals in the workplace inherently constitutes an “adverse employment action” relating to the “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” and that segregating individuals from customers in the name of so-called ‘corporate image’ policies is inherently unreasonable. Such policies reinforce bigoted stereotypes about what American workers should look like; prevent employees of faith from gaining customer service experience, thwarting their professional growth; and clearly undermine the integrative purpose of Title VII.
In light of these concerns, please use your executive authority to condemn the practice of workplace segregation, and please urge the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to issue corrective guidance clarifying that workplace segregation is illegal and un-American.