Sikh Coalition Applauds Introduction of Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2010; Prepares for Battle
December 27, 2010 (Washington, DC) - U.S. Senator John Kerry has formally introduced the Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2010 (WRFA) in the U.S. Senate. If enacted, this landmark legislation will end most forms of employment discrimination against Sikhs. Significantly, the bill contains new language proposed and drafted by the Sikh Coalition, which would make it illegal for employers to segregate Sikhs from customers and the general public.
As we mark the end of 2010, the Sikh Coalition looks forward to promoting WRFA in the 112th Congress. In support of this effort, over the next few months, we look forward to partnering with Sikh communities and student associations nationwide on direct Congressional outreach.
Why should Sikhs care about WRFA?
Sikhs suffer high levels of employment discrimination because of their Sikh identity. Many are told to shave their beards; others are told to remove their turbans; some are told to leave their kirpans at home. If enacted, WRFA would make it harder in each of these cases for employers to discriminate against Sikhs.
How would WRFA work?
Under current law, employers are required to make 'reasonable accommodations' for the religious practices of their employees. Employers can bypass this requirement by showing that such accommodations would impose a minimal difficulty or expense on the employer's business. WRFA would still allow employers to deny religious accommodations, but only by proving that such accommodations would constitute a significant difficulty or expense. Because it usually costs employers little or nothing to accommodate Sikhs, the new legal standard would make it extremely difficult for employers to discriminate against Sikhs.
Is there anything new about WRFA?
Yes. Earlier this year, the Sikh Coalition persuaded Congressional leaders to incorporate language into WRFA that would make it illegal for employers to segregate Sikhs from customers. Under current law, employers with corporate image policies can lawfully hide Sikhs from customers and the general public; in other words, American employers are allowed to tell Sikhs that our faces are not fit to be seen. The Sikh Coalition finds this offensive and immoral and is trying to put an end to this modern-day version of the 'separate but equal' doctrine.
What can I do to help?
If you would like to organize a delegation of Sikhs to visit your local Congressional offices in 2011, please respond to this email. Of course, none of this work is possible without your financial support. If you have not done so already, please click here to make a generous contribution to the Sikh Coalition today. Any amount of support that you are able to give is welcome and appreciated. As always, the Sikh Coalition encourages Sikhs everywhere to fearlessly maintain their articles of faith.