In November of 2020, Mr. Ravinder Singh, a Sikh paramedic working and living in Connecticut, was dismissed from American Medical Response (AMR) after he requested and was denied personal protective equipment (PPE) that would accommodate his Sikh articles of faith, including his turban and beard. This denial came, perplexingly, after Mr. Singh had been provided with and successfully used a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) during his paramedic training under AMR staff just a month before. Despite the fact that Mr. Singh satisfied his training requirements, was hired to work for AMR, and provided AMR with documentation about the Sikh articles of faith and his sincere need for an accommodation, AMR ultimately dismissed Mr. Singh from his position when he would not use an N95 mask–a clear violation of his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
In response to this wrongful termination, the Sikh Coalition filed a discrimination complaint on Mr. Singh’s behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in May of 2021.
After an initial investigation, the EEOC found reasonable cause to conclude religious discrimination by AMR and its affiliated companies in Mr. Singh’s case and other similar cases across the nation. The EEOC offered to mediate the case in February of this year, but AMR declined the opportunity. On September 30, the EEOC announced a lawsuit against American Medical Response and its related companies. On December 28, the Sikh Coalition–along with our co-counsels at Buckley Beal LLP and Livelihood Law LLC filed a complaint in intervention in the case in order to continue to support Mr. Singh.
WHY IT MATTERS
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen a disturbing trend affecting the Sikh community: a significant increase in religious discrimination in the workplace, specifically including healthcare providers and medical/dental schools, which is reducing equality of opportunity for Sikhs and other minority communities. While the public health challenges of the pandemic are ongoing, the legal obligation of employers to keep their employees safe while respecting religious rights has not changed: No one should be forced to make a false choice between their faith or profession.