sikh man files religious discrimination lawsuit

Last week in Indianapolis, a Sikh man filed a federal lawsuit alleging that he was denied a job because of his religious practices -- a violation of civil rights laws. The complaint alleges that Air Serv Corporation, which provides services at airports around the country, denied employment to Inderjit Singh because he wears a turban and beard, as required by his Sikh religion. From the press release I received from Public Justice:
Singh, a U.S. citizen, applied for a job with Air Serv as a shuttle bus driver at the Indianapolis International Airport and passed a drug test and background check, but the company refused to hire him even after Singh explained that his turban and beard are required by his religion.

"I just want to work and earn a living, but Air Serv refused to give me a chance even after they understood that a turban and beard are an integral part of my faith," said Singh. "I don't want this to happen to anyone else, and I don't want my son to face discrimination in the future because of his own turban and beard."

Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with origins in South Asia that teaches honesty, compassion, humility, universal equality, and respect for all religions. Sikhs maintain uncut hair throughout their lives, and the turban is a mandated article of their religious faith. Although Sikhism is often confused with Islam, and Sikhs have been subjected to increased discrimination and violence since September 11, Sikhism and Islam are entirely unrelated religions. Approximately 500,000 Sikhs live in the United States.

"An investigation by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has already determined that there is a reason to believe that Air Serv violated the law," according to Victoria Ni, a Public Justice Staff Attorney representing Singh. "The company should make this right."

Public Justice's lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, alleges that Air Serv violated the law when it failed to make accommodations to its grooming policy to allow Singh to work for the company with a turban and beard.

"The company had a duty to make reasonable accommodations for Mr. Singh's sincerely held religious beliefs," explained Kim Jeselskis of Indianapolis, who also represents Singh. "Federal law is clear about this, and our client deserved better."
In accordance with his religion, Singh has not cut his hair since birth, has covered his hair since he was a young boy and has worn a turban since he was 14 years old. He applied for the $9.90/hour shuttle driver's job with Air Serv in late 2007. I fail to see how a beard and turban would interfere with being a shuttle bus driver. You can download and read the full complaint here.

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