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US Homeland Security lifts turban ban on Sikh guards

October 21, 2009 13:50 IST

Sikhs in the US will be allowed to serve in uniform with their beards and turbans under a legal settlement reached with the US Department of Homeland Security, a Sikh advocacy group claimed on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Sikh Coalition claimed the Department of Homeland Security step had been prompted by the case of Raghbir Singh, who was paid compensation after being sacked from service in 2005 for spotting a beard and wearing a turban in accordance with his religious beliefs.

"Holding the federal government accountable for discriminating against Sikhs sends a strong message to private employers. If the government includes Sikh-Americans in its workforce, it should encourage other employers to do the same," said Harsimran Kaur, legal director, Sikh Coalition.

"Beyond monetary recognition, we are pleased the government recognised the need to edit its policies to accommodate for religious differences," said Khari Tillery, who represented Singh along with the Sikh Coalition and Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.

"Singh's turban and beard did not affect his ability to perform his job duties and he was an exemplary employee," he said.

Singh is a former contracted federal security guard who was fired from his Fresno post in 2005 when his supervisors reported that his beard and religious turban failed to comply with homeland security uniform.

In June 2007, Singh's lawyers filed a complaint in federal court asserting religious discrimination claims against the private security company that employed Singh and free exercise and Religious Freedom Restoration Act claims against several federal employees. Claims with the private security firm were settled in 2008 for monetary damages, the statement said.
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