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October 1, 2010

Lexus Auto Dealer Refuses to Hire Qualified Sikh Applicant Because of His Beard, According to Federal Government Suit 

(Little Falls, N.J.) October 1, 2010 - Earlier this week, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Tri-County Lexus, a large car dealership in Little Falls, N.J., for refusing to hire a qualified Sikh applicant solely because he refused to shave his beard. 
The Sikh Coalition represents the Sikh, Gurpreet S. Kherha, and filed the discrimination complaint which led to the government's lawsuit. The Coalition will continue to represent Gurpreet and will consolidate the state lawsuit filed by the Coalition in Spring 2010 with the federal lawsuit. 
The EEOC lawsuit states that Tri-County Lexus violated federal law by refusing to hire Gupreet for a sales position that he was well-qualified for because of a grooming policy that prohibits facial hair. Although Gurpreet explained that he could not shave because of his religious beliefs, the dealership informed him that if he wanted to be hired he would have to shave his beard.  Gupreet refused to sacrifice his faith, and was rejected for the sales position.
This lawsuit is one of two filed by the federal government in a single day against employers discriminating against Sikhs. This unprecedented level of support makes it clear that both the government and community based organizations such as the Sikh Coalition will hold employers accountable for discrimination against Sikhs. 
"We hope this suit sends a message to companies like Tri-County Lexus that the Sikh community will force them to answer for their discrimination," said Harsimran Kaur, Legal Director, Sikh Coalition. "We are ready to enforce our rights in court."
"Tri-County Lexus forced a Sikh to choose between his religion and employment," said Ravinder S. Bhalla, Esq., of Bhalla and Cho LLC, co-counsel on this case. "Now they are answering for their discrimination in court."
"Where a reasonable accommodation can be made, the law prevents an employer from requiring an employee to choose between being hired and following his or her religious practices," said Spencer H. Lewis, director of the EEOC's New York District Office. "Permitting Mr. Kherha to wear his beard because of his religious beliefs would not have been a burden on the dealership; instead, this would have given the dealership the benefit of a well qualified salesperson."
The Sikh Coalition thanks attorney Ravinder Singh Bhalla, an experienced New Jersey litigator, for his partnership in this case.
Case Timeline:

  • Spring 2008: Coalition contacted by Gurpreet Singh 
  • Winter 2008: Coalition attorneys file complaint with EEOC;
  • Winter 2008 - Spring 2010: EEOC conducted investigation and found that Tri-County Lexus violated federal law;
  • Spring 2010: Coalition filed lawsuit in state court in order to protect client's rights as per state law; 
  • Fall 2010: EEOC filed a lawsuit against Tri-County Lexus and released a Media Advisory
Protect Yourself from Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
As always, the Coalition calls on all Sikhs to stand up for their rights and fearlessly maintain their articles of faith.
Information explaining your rights in the workplace:

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