May 22, 2024 (Sacramento, CA) — The Sikh Coalition continues to lead legal and advocacy work in response to continued workplace discrimination. This includes our efforts to hold the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations (CDCR) accountable for their discriminatory policy prohibiting peace officers, even those who previously held religious or medical accommodations, from maintaining facial hair.

The first hearing in the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) call for a preliminary injunction against CDCR’s violation of peace officers’ civil rights will be held 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.” A preliminary injunction in this case would stop CDCR from enforcing its policy prohibiting facial hair.

“While we support and remain in collaboration with the DOJ on their efforts, the Sikh Coalition and our partners also continue to pursue legal work on behalf of our clients who have been harmed by CDCR’s discrimination,” explained Sikh Coalition Staff Attorney Amreen Partap Singh Bhasin. “While the DOJ’s push for a ruling is rightly focused on limiting CDCR’s policy, we know that the individuals who have suffered for more than a year under that policy also deserve justice.”

To this end, the Sikh Coalition continues our own conversations with numerous clients retained by us and our co-counsel at the Stanford Law Religious Liberty Clinic and the Law Offices of Wendy Musell. We continue to assess these individuals’ ongoing and specific needs for support, as well as strategize for upcoming legal action to address their unique circumstances in concert with the DOJ’s push for larger, systemic change.

Finally, the Sikh Coalition is disappointed to share that last week, the California State Assembly Committee on Appropriations failed to advance AB 2321—our proposed legislation to address this issue, developed alongside Assemblymember Liz Ortega and other allies—to a general floor vote. While we’re aware California is working to cut costs while grappling with a difficult budget deficit, a state’s budget stands as a statement of its values; despite AB 2321 being a priority for the Asian American Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, the California legislature has failed to prioritize the civil rights of these employees. Our advocacy team is grateful to all sangat members who contacted their elected officials about this bill, and we remain committed to finding alternative means to support our legal team’s ongoing work in this space.

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