Friday 9 October 2009

Clothing Store Denies Discrimination Against Turbaned Sikh


Clothing Store Denies
Discrimination Against
Turbaned Sikh

A prominent clothing store denied they had discriminated against Amandeep Singh, a young Sikh man, when he was refused a job because of his turban and claimed that their staff had not understood their dress policy. When Amandeep applied for a job at the Kenneth Cole retail store in Westchester Mall earlier this summer, he did not expect to experience discrimination. In a second interview, the manager of the store expressed interest in hiring him, but then inquired as to the necessity of his wearing of the dastaar (Sikh turban).
Amandeep described his dastaar as a requirement of the Sikh faith, and the manager informed him that "Kenneth Cole's company dress policy clearly states that it did not allow shorts, baggy pants, visible logos, tube-tops, miniskirts, or headgear," and therefore they would not be able to hire him.
This came as a surprise to Amandeep, as Kenneth Cole used a Sikh model, Sonny Singh Cabberwal, in an advertising campaign in the Fall of 2008, and that campaign was heralded by the Sikh community.
After Amandeep contacted UNITED SIKHS, we wrote to Kenneth Cole asking that the incident be immediately investigated, a change in corporate policy be instituted, an apology be issued to Amandeep Singh, and training be put in place regarding diversity including education about Sikhs. Kenneth Cole responded with an apology, stated that the particular store's associates did not understand the relevant policies, and stated the Company's policy "does not prohibit headgear worn because of a sincerely held religious belief." Representatives from the Company also called Amandeep and offered to continue his interview process. UNITED SIKHS is pursuing a change to the policy that explicitly expresses the exception for the dastaar (Sikh turban), and is continuing to advocate for training to ensure that incidents such as this one are not repeated.
Amandeep Singh commented on the experience, stating, "Being born and raised in the United States, I never thought I would be discriminated against because of my religion. I will now have this incident in mind every time I apply for for a job." The dastaar (Sikh turban) is the most recognizable feature of a Sikh. It is an inextricable part of the Sikh identity and is worn by a Sikh at all times, to cover the kesh (unshorn hair), one of the five articles of faith initiated Sikhs are required to maintain. The requirement of unshorn hair and a dastaar tied over it has been codified in the Sikh Code of Conduct (Sikh Rehat Maryada).
Commenting on the case, Jaspreet Singh, Staff Attorney, UNITED SIKHS stated, "While Kenneth Cole has stated it does not support a discriminatory policy against religious headgear, we are continuing to pursue this matter with the Company to ensure that proper protocol is in place so that incidents like this one do not occur again. Employment discrimination has been a consistent problem for Sikhs in the United States, and every incident like this one must be treated seriously." UNITED SIKHS is working closely with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other state civil rights agencies to address workplace discrimination against Sikhs.
UNITED SIKHS encourages the Sikh community to wear their kakaars, fearlessly exercise their freedom of religion, and to contact us with any problems, concerns, or incidents of discrimination.
Help UNITED SIKHS tailor their advocacy initiatives for the greatest global impact by participating in the Global Sikh Civil Rights Survey.

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