May 13, 2020 (New York, NY) — The Sikh Coalition continues to work to ensure that Sikh healthcare professionals and emergency first responders know their rights with regard to personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given recent reports of Sikh healthcare professionals in different countries being asked or ordered to trim or shave their beards–and some even being sidelined, suspended, or fired for refusing to compromise their religious beliefs–it is important to reiterate that no Sikh should be asked to make the false choice between their faith and their career. Alternative PPE does exist: Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) or Controlled Air Purifying Respirators (CAPRs) provide full coverage for wearers with facial hair. Moreover, many Sikhs have found workable solutions to more readily available PPE, such as N95 masks, as well

If you or someone you know is a healthcare professional, please read (and share) this memo we released in March offering guidance for healthcare providers on how to proactively request and secure a religious accommodation for a PAPR or CAPR. 

Recently, the Sikh Coalition has also worked with the North American Sikh Medical and Dental Association to produce this letter to Sikh healthcare professionals, in an effort to fully inform them of their rights when it comes to articles of faith and PPE guidelines. 

“No Sikh should be forced or expected to choose between their professional service on the frontlines and their articles of faith,” said Amrith Kaur, Sikh Coalition Legal Director. “These alternative forms of PPE allow Sikh healthcare professionals to continue working during the pandemic while maintaining their unshorn hair, and their employers must provide them with the tools they need to continue serving as the heroes they are.”

Most critically, if you or somebody you know is a U.S. healthcare professional and have been told to shave facial hair in response to COVID-19, please contact the Sikh Coalition’s legal team for free legal aid immediately. We can effectively walk you through the process of securing a religious accommodation with the goal of a quick resolution between you and your employer.   

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