May 11, 2021 (Washington, DC) -- The Sikh Coalition continues fighting for the civil rights of Sikhs in the workplace, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 28, Sikh Coalition Legal Director Amrith Kaur testified
before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) at the Commission’s first all-virtual hearing. Over the course of her remarks, Kaur discussed civil rights challenges for the Sikh community brought on by the pandemic--including the issue of personal protective equipment (PPE) accommodations for individuals who maintain kesh
“The Sikh community is not new to workplace discrimination, and the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to greater religion-based employment discrimination,” said Kaur during her testimony. “The role of the EEOC is to advance the public interest, protect the civil rights of employees who are subjected to discrimination, and ensure that all American workers have access to equal employment opportunity ... Consequently, we strongly urge the EEOC to acknowledge this harm which continues to grow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and to hold employers accountable whenever their actions or the failure to act are the cause of it.”
to read Kaur’s full written remarks, submitted to the EEOC in advance.
Following the testimony, the Sikh Coalition was engaged by the EEOC and the Illinois Human Rights Commission to provide Title VII seminars and training specific to religious discrimination in the workplace, particularly those emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to offer free training and presentations to organizations across the public and private sectors who need more information about how to respect the religious rights of their Sikh employees and patrons.
The Sikh Coalition has been at the forefront of the fight to protect religious rights since the beginning of the pandemic. In March 2020, we released a memo
with the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA) offering guidance for healthcare professionals on how to proactively request and secure a religious accommodation for a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) or other suitable PPE. Then, in May, we again worked with NASMDA to produce a letter
to fully inform healthcare professionals of their rights when it comes to articles of faith. In September, we worked with U.S.-based nonprofit Direct Relief to secure a donation
of PAPRs for professionals in need and better publicize
the legal issue that Sikhs were facing.
If you or someone you know has been told by an employer to shave facial hair in response to COVID-19, please contact the Sikh Coalition’s legal team for free and confidential legal aid immediately
. We can effectively walk you through the process of securing a religious accommodation with the goal of finding a quick resolution between you and your employer. For information about employee rights related to the pandemic in general, please review our Know Your Rights resource
regarding the EEOC’s latest rules.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.