July 1, 2024 (Sacramento, CA) —As of June 20, the Sikh Coalition is pleased to announce that a court ruling has been issued to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) requiring the agency to pause its discriminatory policy of barring corrections officers from wearing beards.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) pushed for this ruling, by calling for a preliminary injunction, against CDCR’s violation of peace officers’ civil rights at a hearing on June 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. As a reminder, the DOJ first announced their challenge to CDCR on March 25, with Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke writing that “Sikhs, Muslims, and employees of any faith should not be forced to choose between the practice of their faith and their jobs.” This challenge came after the DOJ’s close consultation with the Sikh Coalition and our legal allies, who have been fighting for the rights of Sikh, Muslim, Black, and other peace officers since a 2023 policy change by CDCR abruptly revoked all beard accommodations, including those granted for religious or medical reasons.

“This preliminary injunction represents essential progress in stopping CDCR’s discriminatory behavior,” said Sikh Coalition Staff Attorney Amreen Partap Singh Bhasin. “We hope that this ruling, which temporarily halts CDCR from prohibiting facial hair maintained for religious reasons, will be the first of many steps towards creating the systemic change needed in order for Sikhs and others working at CDCR to maintain both their civil rights and their employment.”

In addition to collaborating with the DOJ, the Sikh Coalition continues working on our own existing legal campaign to address CDCR’s discrimination. Over the past year, we have joined with legal partners and co-counsel to retain eight clients who have suffered due to the policy, from being threatened with termination to being forced to use paid time off or sick leave while waiting for an accommodation. To date, we and our allies have filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission outlining these cases as a prelude to further legal action. Learn more about the case here.

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