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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-06-08-2009-00.htm
Press Release: 6th Aug 2009, 2nd Saavan (Samvat 541 Nanakshahi )
El Sobrante, CA; Dallas, TX; Washington, D.C., USA; New York, NY: UNITED SIKHS continues its mission to combat discrimination and promote Sikh awareness in partnership with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by holding education and awareness seminars throughout the United States. Spanning across four states in the past two months the seminars provided information to members of the Sikh community regarding employment discrimination and insight into the Sikh faith for government officials, a company, and the general public. Commenting on the collaboration, Harpreet Singh, Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS said, "Employment discrimination is a growing problem within the Sikh community and UNITED SIKHS is working with the EEOC to thoroughly address this problem. We plan to continue educating the Sikh Community and regional EEOC offices on employment discrimination throughout the nation. We encourage the Sikh community to be vigilant and report any incidents of employment discrimination to UNITED SIKHS."
First Event: June 28, 2009, El Sobrante, California
Representatives of the EEOC and OSHA visited El Sobrante Gurdwara Sahib, a Sikh place of worship, and addressed a congregation of over 500 people, informing them of the various types of workplace discrimination including discrimination in hiring, dismissal, pay raises, and promotions. The presentation encouraged the Sikh community to report cases of employment discrimination, as well as informed the congregation of their rights.
Jani Hami, OSHA Representative addressing the community
Mali Kigasari, a Representative and Federal Investigator for the EEOC in California, assisted by California OSHA Representative, Jan Hami, presented a brief overview of the Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). They outlined the various types of employment discrimination and what measures one can take against these kinds of discrimination. Attendees were specifically informed on how to report incidents to the EEOC, as the organization investigates and mediates cases of discrimination. Ms. Kigasari highlighted religious discrimination focusing on the Sikh identity, urging the congregation to come forth and report any incidents.
In addition to the presentation, both Mali Kigasari and Jan Hami set up booths in the Gurdwara and answered questions and addressed concerns of individual community members regarding workplace and employment discrimination. The EEOC distributed literature in both English and Punjabi that discussed issues such as what qualifies as workplace discrimination, what to do if discrimination occurs, and how to file a claim. EEOC Representative Mali Kigasari commented, "We are delighted to visit the Sikh Gurdwara El Sobrante. We'd like to continue to work with UNITED SIKHS in reaching out to the Sikh community regarding their rights at the workplace."
In the upcoming weeks, UNITED SIKHS will be addressing the EEOC San Francisco office to educate investigators, attorneys, and administrative judges on the Sikh faith. The presentation will include post 9-11 issues and concerns the Sikh community has regarding hate and bias crimes, employment discrimination, and specifically religious discrimination based on wearing the Kirpan, a short steel or iron sword that is carried as an article of faith, and the Dastaar, the Sikh turban. Commenting on the training, Jatinder Singh, Director, UNITED SIKHS stated, "UNITED SIKHS has worked continuously with the EEOC to report incidences and advocate where Sikhs are discriminated against at the workplace."
Second Event: July 17, 2009, Dallas, Texas
UNITED SIKHS Director Gurvinder Singh conducted a Sikh Awareness training session for the employees of Champion National Security Inc. on July 17, 2009. This training resulted from a case settlement earlier this year involving discriminatory practices of Champion National Security against one of their Sikh employees, Sukhdev Singh Brar. Sukhdev Singh's case was settled after intervention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and UNITED SIKHS. The settlement resulted in continued Sikh awareness training, to be provided by UNITED SIKHS for Champion National Security, as well as written change in company's policy, and the posting of anti-discrimination notices on all of the employee bulletin boards
Commenting on the training, Bill McCoy, General Manager for Champion National Security stated that he, "appreciates and applauses the efforts of UNITED SIKHS to educate and train the company. That will allow understanding and hopefully diminish any discrimination."
UNITED SIKHS Director Gurvinder Singh commented on the importance of training companies, stating, "I believe it is integral for us to be active and involve ourselves with the masses. Once we do that, it will help facilitate a more understanding and educated society."
Champion National Security Staff and UNITED SIKHS Representatives
Third Event: July 23, 2009, Washington, D.C.
Harpreet Singh, Legal Director of UNITED SIKHS led a training and information session at the National EEOC office where over seventy investigators and intake personnel were present for the event. The presentation focused on Sikh cultural sensitivity training, an overview of the kinds of discrimination that Sikhs experience in the workplace, and examples of UNITED SIKHS' successful intervention with employers on behalf of their Sikh employees to combat unfair workplace policies. Focus was also placed on discussing solutions and suggestions for reasonable accommodation for the faithful in various industries, the significance of the articles of faith and the turban, and specific concerns regarding the wearing of the kirpan. UNITED SIKHS is working closely with the EEOC in trying to educate and provide Sikh cultural sensitivity training to current and incoming EEOC staff so they have an understanding of the issues Sikhs encounter at the workplace.
Forth Event: August 5, 2009, New York, NY
UNITED SIKHS Staff Attorney, Jaspreet Singh continued the awareness training by holding an information session and the New York EEOC office. The presentation was similar to the one given to the EEOC office in Washington, D.C., but expanded its focus to include trends of discrimination against Sikhs across the globe. In attendance at the meeting were approximately 50 EEOC staff and UNITED SIKHS legal interns: Rodolfo Medini from CUNY School of law in New York, Megan Collelo from University of Pittsburg School of Law in Pennsylvania, and Ranjit Singh from Sorbonne University School of Law in France. Ranjit Singh spoke about his experience in France regarding discrimination and the injustice he faced when he was expelled from high school for wearing his Turban, as a result of French laws which banning ostensible religious symbols in schools.
The speakers were well received by EEOC staff and answered many questions following the presentation. Bryan White, EEOC Regional Public Analyst for Public Outreach commenting on the presentation stated "We have a lot of new staff, it's important to have repeat training so our investigators are better trained at observing religious discrimination, and the kinds of discrimination that Sikhs face." Jaspreet Singh, commented, "We've been observing global trends in discrimination in relation to the Sikh identity. The EEOC has been instrumental in helping Sikhs with their employment discrimination issues in the US."
UNITED SIKHS encourages the Sikh community to fearlessly exercise their freedom of religion, and to contact us with any problems, concerns, or incidents of discrimination.
To read a previous press release on another collaborative effort between UNITED SIKHS and EEOC please visit: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-15-04-2008-00.htm, http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-07-05-2008-00.htm, and http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-23-01-2009-00.htm
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Accordingly, UNITED SIKHS has sought to fulfil its mission not only by informing, educating and uplifting fellow beings but also by participating in cross-cultural and political exchanges to ensure that the promises and benefits of democracy are realized by all.
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