In July 2015, the Sikh Coalition and its partners at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) proudly announced a legal settlement with Walt Disney World that ended the segregation of a Sikh employee.
Our client, Gurdit Singh, wears a turban and maintains unshorn hair and a beard in accordance with his Sikh beliefs. For seven years, Mr. Singh was restricted to delivering mail to Disney corporate offices, on a single mail route that shielded him from areas where Disney guests congregate. All of Mr. Singh’s co-workers, however, rotated their routes every three weeks and delivered mail in full view of Disney customers. Disney’s segregation of Mr. Singh relegated him to an inferior position, directly impacted his workload, created animosity amongst his co-workers, and precluded him from advancing in his career.
Mr. Singh decided that enough was enough, and so he courageously contacted the Sikh Coalition and ACLU for assistance. We sent a demand letter to Disney arguing that they were breaking the law.
Disney responded to our demand letter by agreeing to desegregate Mr. Singh and allowing him to rotate his delivery route like the rest of his colleagues who work in full view of Disney customers. Notably, we achieved this victory without filing a lawsuit.
What It Matters
As a publicly-traded Fortune 100 company, Disney’s religious accommodation policies have a ripple effect on other companies in the retail and hospitality industries. Too often, companies like Disney adopt “corporate image policies” that are based on stereotypes about what Americans should look like. Although federal law requires employers to make reasonable accommodations of their employees’ religious practices, companies sometimes ignore or intentionally violate these rules. Thanks to the courage of Gurdit Singh, Walt Disney World is a more welcoming place to religious minorities.