First Time Sukhvir Kaur Speaks About her Experience with Employment Discrimination
(New York, New York) April 5, 2007– In an effort to provide documentary evidence of discrimination, the Sikh Coalition today is releasing a short video of Sukhvir Kaur discussing her experience with employment discrimination at a National Wholesale Liquidators store in New York.
By way of background, on September 29, 2006, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) issued a determination that Sukhvir Kaur suffered unlawful discrimination in part as a result of being told to take off her turban and that Sikhs are “thieves and are nasty.” The EEOC issued the finding after a year long investigation initiated when Sukhvir in collaboration with the Sikh Coalition and a private attorney, Ravinder Singh (Bhalla), filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
Sukhvir's trouble began when her employer hired a new manager during the summer of 2004. The manager told her that he did not want Indians and Pakistanis working at the store, and that he preferred Guyanese and Spanish employees. He said that Indian and Pakistani employees were “dirty” and “nasty” and that Sikh employees are “thieves.”
In addition to speaking in derogatory terms about her religion and ethnicity, Ms. Kaur’s manager also told her to take off her turban because he liked women with long hair. He said also asked Ms. Kaur to wear western clothing because it is tighter fitting and would look more attractive to him.
When Sukhvir Kaur refused her manager’s advances, he retaliated against her by requiring her to clean bathrooms. Her manager told her that if she ever complained to anyone about him, he would report to the police that she had been stealing from the store. Ms. Kaur was ultimately fired by her manager during October 2004 because she refused his advances .
The Sikh Coalition assisted Sukhvir Kaur with filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC during August 2005. The EEOC conducted a year long investigation during which it interviewed scores of Sikh and South Asian workers employed at National Wholesale Liquidators branch where Ms. Kaur was employed.
Ultimately, the EEOC found on September 29, 2006 that National Wholesale Liquidators had discriminated against Sukhvir Kaur and two other South Asian workers who had filed similar charges of discrimination independent of Ms. Kaur. The Commission’s finding is sweeping in its breadth finding that Ms. Kaur and others suffered discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, religion, sex, and through the imposition of English only rules.
Sukhvir Kaur and National Wholesale Liquidators are in mandatory mediation negotiations. If mediation fails to resolve the dispute, Ms. Kaur or the EEOC may file a federal lawsuit against National Wholesale Liquidators. The Sikh Coalition will stand with Sukhvir Kaur along the way.
The Coalition applauds Sukhvir Kaur’s courage and calls upon all Sikhs to stand up against injustice in the workplace.