Today, the Sikh Coalition submitted public comments to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The comments, in response to the “Draft Strategic Enforcement Plan,” spoke to the systemic discrimination faced by Sikhs related to personal protective equipment (PPE), N95 respirator requirements, oxygen masks, and hair testing.

The Sikh Coalition has remained at the forefront of the fight to protect religious rights since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In March of 2020, 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 personal protective equipment (PPE) from their employers. In April of 2021, the Sikh Coalition testified before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), asking them to hold employers accountable and recognize civil rights challenges faced by Sikhs and other minority communities brought on by the pandemic–including the issue of PPE accommodations for individuals who maintain kesh. In response to our recommendations, the EEOC published updated and improved guidance on pandemic requirements for workplaces that informs employers of their obligations to accommodate requests for alternative PPE.

Additionally, in December 2022, the Sikh Coalition and co-counsels at Buckley Beal LLP and Livelihood Law LLC filed a complaint in intervention against Global Medical Response (GMR), American Medical Response (AMR) and AMR’s subsidiaries. The motion comes after the EEOC filed a nationwide lawsuit against the companies in September 2022 that was a result, in part, of the wrongful termination of Mr. Ravinder Singh, a Sikh paramedic and client represented by the Sikh Coalition. This ongoing litigation has the potential to significantly impact future PPE issues moving forward. 

The Sikh Coalition has also made headway in our wider lawsuit with our partners against the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) in regards to securing religious accommodation. In December of 2023, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals allowed two Sikh men to begin serving in the USMC with their articles of faith, and they referred the case of a third Sikh man for reconsideration by the U.S. District Court. In fact, for the past 12 years of advocacy and legal action, the Sikh Coalition and our partners have helped more than 50 Sikh Americans in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force secure accommodations. 

Finally, the Sikh Coalition has been working on issues pertaining to drug testing for years, including our landmark 2013 settlement of a multi-year, testing-related case involving four Sikh truck drivers who were discriminated against by transportation industry giant JB Hunt. In addition to providing legal support for those in need, we also pursue proactive measures–including a comprehensive effort to hold a major training initiative with national testing company Quest Diagnostics in 2019, and working with the North American Punjabi Trucking Association to submit public comments on DOT’s hair testing requirements. 

We strongly believe that no Sikh should be forced to choose between their religious practice and their career, and that no Sikh should fear retaliation or hardship for adhering to their religious beliefs. We will continue to provide recommendations and public comments whenever feasible in our fight against all discrimination that prevents Sikhs from maintaining their articles of faith in their profession. 

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