Firms and Lawyers Working to Protect Our Civil and Constitutional Rights.
The Sikh Coalition's legal work often stands at the cutting edge of the civil rights challenges of our time. In forging new ground, the Sikh Coalition is proud to have the following firms and attorneys provide pro bono support for our work. While this list of firms is not comprehensive, it provides a glimpse into the type of work members of the legal profession are providing to the community.
McDermott, Will & Emery, Washington, DC
McDermott attorneys represent two Sikhs who obtained accommodations to serve in the United States Army with their Sikh articles of faith intact. In addition, lawyers at McDermott ,Will & Emery represent the Sikhs who filed administrative complaints with the Department of Homeland Security alleging that they were the victims of profiling before boarding airplanes in the United States.
McDermott attorneys represent the Sikh Coalition at a bi-monthly meeting convened by the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights of the United States Justice Department. The purpose of these meetings is to discuss and present legal issues of concern to the Sikh, Arab, Muslim, and South Asian communities.
Finally McDermott’s corporate department serves as the Coalition’s counsel in corporate matters involving the opening of its new office in the San Francisco Bay Area and personnel policy in its New York and California offices.
Howrey LLP, New York City
Howrey attorneys represent a Sikh student who suffered a violent biased-based attack in a civil rights action asserting that the school and New York City’s Department of Education failed to protect him from a violent bias-based attack in school. The suit alleges that the Sikh student was subject to nearly daily abuse from a fellow student and that the school system did not respond effectively to protect him.
Covington & Burling, Washington, DC
The law firm of Covington & Burling serves as the Sikh Coalition’s representative on Capitol Hill, specifically advocating for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) policies that guard against racial or national origin profiling.
In addition Covington attorneys have assisted the Coalition in filing a FOIA request to the TSA regarding its anti-profiling policies and passenger search procedures. Finally Covington has produced research memoranda for the Sikh Coalition on the viability of legal remedies for those who believe their civil rights have been violated in air travel.
Keker & Van Nest, San Francisco, CA
Keker & Van Nest served as co-counsel with the Sikh Coalition and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights for a Sikh man who was fired from his job as a federal contract security guard because his religious beliefs prohibited him from complying with the government's uniform and grooming. These policies required that guards be clean-shaven and prohibited any unauthorized headgear, including the Sikh guard's religiously-mandated turban.
As a result of the case, the federal government changed its uniform and grooming policy for contract security guards, and provided accommodations for Sikh articles of faith. In 2008, the plaintiff’s claims against a private contractor and the federal government were settled for sizeable sums.
Law Offices of Ravinder Singh Bhalla, Hoboken, NJ
The law offices of Ravinder S. Bhalla co-counseled with the Sikh Coalition in a matter involving a woman whose supervisor at National Wholesale Liquidators told her that she should take off her turban and that Sikhs are “thieves and nasty.” The woman’s supervisor tried to punish her for refusing his sexual advances by forcing her to clean bathrooms, and ultimately terminated her in retaliation. This matter was resolved in November of 2008 with injunctive relief and a sizeable settlement.
The law firm currently co-counsels with the Sikh Coalition representing a Sikh man who was denied a job by a Lexus dealership because he refused to shave his religiously-mandated beard.
Dhillon & Smith, San Francisco, CA
Dhillon & Smith serves as co-counsel with the Sikh Coalition in a matter involving a Sikh who was denied the ability to apply for a California state prison guard position unless he shaved his beard. The administrative court ruled in his favor in November, 2008.
Kaye Scholer LLP, New York, NY
Through the Public Interest Program, a Kaye Scholer attorney worked alongside the Sikh Coalition’s legal team on its current and active cases for seven months. Kaye Scholer LLP is a leading international law firm representing public and private companies, governmental entities, financial institutions and other organizations in matters across the U.S. and around the world. The firm made available the full use of its resources, including its Information Resource Center and its subscriptions to electronic legal databases, to assist the Coalition in its litigation.
Sidley Austin, LLP, Chicago, IL
The law firm of Sidley Austin LLP represented the Sikh Coalition in the filing of an amicus brief before the Fifth Circuit in a religious rights case. A federal district court had interpreted the protective scope of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in an extremely narrow fashion. The brief argued that the lower court’s decision resulted in inherent disfavoring of religious uses under a local zoning code, and would have allowed covert manipulation of the zoning code to exclude religious institutions.