September 28, 2020 (New York, NY) — The Sikh Coalition is continuing to lead the way in supporting Sikh healthcare professionals through the COVID-19 pandemic by providing them with personal protective equipment (PPE) that works with their articles of faith.

The Sikh Coalition has been closely following this issue since the early days of the pandemic, having provided legal guidance to Sikh medical and dental professionals, including students, seeking legal advice on how to maintain their articles of faith under new restrictions. In March, we released a memo with the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association (NASMDA) offering guidance for healthcare professionals on how to proactively request and secure a religious accommodation for a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) or other suitable PPE. Then, in May, we again worked with NASMDA to produce this letter to fully inform healthcare professionals of their rights when it comes to articles of faith. 

Recently, Direct Relief, a California-based non-profit, has provided the Sikh Coalition a donation of 23 PAPRs for Sikh healthcare professionals in need of urgent assistance and with limited resources. While these donations are not permanent fixes–given that it is an employer’s responsibility to provide their staff with the appropriate PPE–they will be used to help Sikh healthcare professionals facing long wait times and resource shortages as they work on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

“We continue to assert that no one should face a choice between their faith and their career–and now more than ever, Sikh healthcare professionals need the right tools for their heroic work against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cindy Nesbit, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “We will use these PAPRs to help those who face urgent and immediate needs, but we also intend to continue working to ensure that hospitals and other employers provide their employees with PPE that respect their religious needs, as is required by law.”

If you or somebody you know is a U.S. healthcare professional who has been told to shave facial hair in response to COVID-19, please contact the Sikh Coalition’s legal team for free and confidential legal aid immediately. We can effectively walk you through the process of securing a religious accommodation with the goal of finding a quick resolution between you and your employer. For information about employee rights related to the pandemic in general, please review our Know Your Rights resource regarding the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s latest rules.

We thank Direct Relief for their generous donation–and for their recent feature article, which tells the story of how one of our clients fought to maintain his religious rights in the workplace. The Sikh Coalition will continue to fight for Sikh medical professionals’ rights to access to suitable PPE and against employment discrimination against Sikhs in all career fields.

As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.