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The Sikh Coalition News
January 29, 2021
  • Continuing the Fight Against Discrimination

    January 29, 2021 (Washington, DC) -- In the final days of the Trump Administration, the Sikh Coalition fought against last-minute changes to anti-discrimination policies that would affect our and other marginalized communities. With the transition to the new Biden Administration, this important work continues as we keep holding our leaders accountable.

    First, in December, we joined a chorus of civil rights organizations in successfully opposing a sweeping proposal from former President Trump’s Justice Department that would have changed how the federal government enforced Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The proposal would have stopped investigations of “disparate impact” discrimination, where otherwise neutral policies disproportionately affect a specific community: For example, a federally-funded employer could not have a policy that prohibited hiring Sikhs, but they could have a policy against having a beard or wearing a turban--which would have disproportionately affected Sikhs. Fortunately, we can now confirm that this particular change was not pushed through in the final hours of the Trump Administration!

    Since November, we have also been leading efforts to oppose a new set of religious discrimination guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This guidance, while not legally binding, informs how employers, employees, and the government handle questions of religious discrimination in particular. The Sikh Coalition rallied 50 organizations to speak out against the changes in December, submitted a public comment, called media attention to the issue in outlets like ProPublica and Bloomberg Law, and met with every commissioner on the EEOC board who would hear our concerns.

    Unfortunately, the EEOC’s proposal was still passed, by a narrow 3-2 vote, on the Friday before President Biden’s inauguration. While some of the changes we pushed for were included (for instance, providing certain Sikh-specific examples to guide employees and employers), we remain concerned that the majority of the new guidance could be harmful to many different groups--including religious minorities--in the long run. Accordingly, we continue working to find ways to revise or improve these changes--particularly as we remain in touch with the newly appointed Chair and Vice Chair, who heard our concerns and themselves voted against the eleventh-hour guidance manual changes.

    As a reminder, if you or someone you know has experienced workplace discrimination, whether in the private or public sector, reach out to our legal team for a free consultation. In addition to policy work, the Sikh Coalition processes hundreds of legal intakes per year, working to provide pro bono assistance to Sikhs who face bias or bigotry at their jobs or elsewhere.

    Workplace discrimination, however, isn’t our only area of legal work or policy advocacy. In the coming months, the Sikh Coalition will continue to engage our elected officials on a range of issues including preventing and combating hate, making safer schools, and more. Regardless of which party or persons are in power in Washington, our mission to keep fighting for the rights of Sikh Americans and holding our leaders accountable stays the same.

    As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.

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