NEW YORK: A Sikh officer, who worked with the Arizona Department of Corrections and faced dismissal as he refused to trim his beard or remove his kara (steel bracelet), will now not lose job.
The Sikh Coalition, which fought for the right of Ikhbinder Singh Bassin to wear his religious symbols, says the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has agreed to accommodate his articles of faith, including his unshorn beard and kara.
In a statement, the Sikh Coalition – which lobbies for rights of the Sikhs in the US – said that Bassin, who has worked for the department for 10 years, was asked in December that he would be terminated unless he shaved his beard and removed his kara within 10 days.
The Sikh Coalition said the ultimatum seemed arbitrary and was an about-face with respect to the Department’s history of accommodation of these articles.
It said the ultimatum was also inconsistent with similar accommodation offered to women in relation to long hair and accommodations made for medical wrist bracelets. Further, the decision was also inconsistent with state and federal civil rights law pertaining to religious freedom in the workplace.
Faced with dismissal, Bassin contacted the Sikh Coalition which requested the ADC to grant him a religious accommodation.
The ADC, however, denied the request and once again threatened to fire him if he did not comply by January 31, 2013.
With a tight deadline, the Sikh Coalition said it aggressively fought for Bassin’s rights by threatening the ADC with a lawsuit, and filing a charge of discrimination with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
It also sought intervention of the US Department of Justice and an Arizona state senator on behalf of the Sikh officer.
Further, the Sikh Coalition approached the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and got support letters from the Anti-Defamation League, the Arizona Interfaith Movement and elected officials and Sikh leaders.
Bowing to pressure, the ADC has now allowed the Sikh officer to continue in his job with his unshorn hair and kara.