May 28, 2019 (Rockville, MD) - Today, after nearly a decade of enduring racial and religious harassment in the workplace, Sawinder Singh, a 45-year-old observant Sikh American bus supervisor, successfully resolved a multi-year dispute
against a Maryland public school district with the help of attorneys from the Sikh Coalition and Public Justice
Mr. Singh was hired as a bus driver by Montgomery County Public School District (MCPS) in 2006. He routinely endured racial and religious harassment in the workplace by students, colleagues and supervisors. The harassment included calling Mr. Singh, who wears a turban and maintains an unshorn beard, “Osama bin Laden,” “al Qaeda,” and the “Taliban,” while also subjecting him to relentless teasing about his Sikh religious articles of faith. In one instance, after the news announcement of bin Laden’s death, a former colleague said, “How did they let you back in the country? Osama bin Laden was killed.”
Mr. Singh endured the harassment at MCPS - at times without complaint - because, as a new immigrant when he was hired, he sought the stability and security of working for a government agency that was close to home. But when the continued harassment became unendurable for Mr. Singh, he contacted the Sikh Coalition for assistance. In 2016, the Sikh Coalition filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
on Mr. Singh’s behalf, and later joined co-counsel Public Justice to resolve his concerns with MCPS’ general counsel.
In May 2019, MCPS and Mr. Singh came to an agreement addressing the issues of harassment he endured. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, MCPS will work with the Sikh Coalition and Public Justice to develop a working group to review and consider changes to MCPS’ current training initiatives, along with staff and student feedback on school and workplace climate, with a goal of improving cultural competencies, including Sikh awareness.
“I am thankful that the Sikh Coalition and Public Justice were there for me,” Mr. Singh said. “Without them, I would still be enduring discrimination in the workplace. Sikhs and other religious minorities will now be much better protected from discrimination throughout the Montgomery County Public School District.”
The successful resolution with MCPS is the latest in a line of high-impact employment discrimination cases
that the Sikh Coalition has won over the last 18 years. Recently, these wins include ending employment discrimination against Sikhs at one of the nation’s largest trucking companies
and Walt Disney World
. This work is also joined by our successful campaign to end employment discrimination in the U.S. Army
“No Sikh should have to deal with the years of abuse and discrimination that Mr. Singh endured,” said Sikh Coalition Legal Director Amrith Kaur. “Our legal team is here to end this type of discrimination in workplaces nationwide, and this victory is yet another reminder that employers must be held accountable for protecting their employees.”
The Sikh Coalition’s legal team continues to provide free legal aid on over 200 cases per year. If you or someone you know is experiencing employment discrimination, please reach out to the Sikh Coalition for a free consultation
to determine the best course of action for you and your situation. The Sikh Coalition has a proven record of defending the civil rights of Sikh Americans, especially in situations of workplace discrimination.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.