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US: Sikh man wins 4-year-old battle against discrimination

By Ritu Jha
October 29, 2011 19:59 IST
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Trilochan Singh Oberoi, 64, who had earlier told that he was confident of winning his legal battle, was proved right after he was re-employed as a correctional officer by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation on October 27.

In 2005, Oberoi applied for a position as a correctional officer with the CDCR. He advanced to the final stage of the application process, which involved being fit-tested with a particular model of a tight-fitting respirator mask, and was told that he could not take the test unless he were to shave off his beard.

In February 2007, Oberoi filed an appeal with the California State Personnel Board concerning the CDCR's denial of his opportunity. Despite the SPB's decision, as well as numerous attempts by Oberoi and his volunteer counsel to contact the CDCR to facilitate his hiring, the CDCR ignored the court order and refused to hire Oberoi in any capacity. 

On July 31, 2009, Dhillon & Smith filed a complaint in the Sacramento County Superior Court, alleging religious discrimination.

Finally, in August 2011, the CDCR accepted Oberoi's long-standing offer to engage in settlement communications, and the parties engaged in a day-long private mediation before a retired state appeals court judge that resulted in the long-awaited justice Oberoi had been seeking in the four-year-old litigation.

From November 1, he will start working at the CDCR.

"I am very happy that I will finally get the chance to serve my community in law enforcement by working for the CDCR. It was a long battle but ultimately the CDCR recognised that hiring me was the right thing to do," said Oberoi.

The CDCR also agreed to make a payment of $295,000 to Oberoi and his counsel. 

"Oberoi's legal battle exemplifies the challenges many Sikhs face in the United States in seeking private and government employment after 9/11, as widespread ignorance, prejudice and hate pose serious challenges to equal opportunity for South Asians, and particularly Sikh Americans, who are often mistaken for middle eastern terrorists," stated Oberoi's lead trial counsel Harmeet K Dhillon.

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