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International Testing Company Apologizes to Sikh American Woman Denied Access due to Turban

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    SALDEF works with Pearson VUE Testing to revise accommodation policy to include religious apparel

    Washington D.C. – January 23, 2007: The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the nations oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization, received a formal letter of apology from Pearson VUE Vice President Anthony Zara in response to an incident of mistreatment of Ms. Jagjit Kaur Khalsa, as she sought to sit for a standardized test at one of Pearson’s facilities.

    On October 13, 2006, Ms. Khalsa went to a Pearson VUE testing facility in Austin, TX to complete her Oriental Medicine Licensure exam. Upon arriving at the testing facility, Ms. Khalsa was denied entrance into the exam room by a security guard due to her religiously mandated turban.

    The security guard told Ms. Khalsa that the removal of her “hat” was for her own protection and concerned her career. Ms. Khalsa told the guard that she was not wearing a “hat,” but rather a mandated religious article of faith, a dastaar (turban) and that she could not remove it.

    SALDEF letter to Pearson VUE’s general counsel informed them of the discriminatory action of the security guard and recommended necessary steps to remedy this situation quickly to Ms. Khalsa’s satisfaction.

    In a letter to Ms. Khalsa, Pearson VUE Vice President Anthony Zara noted, “We thank you and your attorney for bringing the matter of October 13, 2006 outlined in your letter to our attention. We take matters such as this very seriously and we regret that you felt humiliated during this incident.”

    Additionally, SALDEF received a separate letter from Mr. Zara indicating Pearson’s formal policy changes allowing for exceptions for religious head coverings specifically mentioning Sikh turbans. In his response, Mr. Zara wrote, “In response to your letter, Pearson VUE has updated its policy on religious and cultural apparel. Please note that under the revised policy no candidate will be asked to remove any item of religious apparel for inspection.”

    “Your support means a lot to me as for years people have on occasion made uneducated comments about turbans that I have usually just brushed off.” said Ms. Khalsa. “I am so reassured and grateful that your organization is here to help for the sake of many others as well offering support and education! Thank you for helping to get them to change their policy! I could not do that on my own.”

    SALDEF thanks Pearson VUE for their immediate attention to resolving this matter so that individuals of faith have the ability to use their facilities without having to remove their religious head covering. Additionally, SALDEF commends the courage of Ms. Jagjit Kaur Khalsa for reporting this incident to SALDEF and making sure that her rights as a Sikh American are not marginalized.

    Unfortunately these incidents have occurred on a frequent basis with many other testing and employment facilities across the country. If you or anyone you know has been the victim of workplace or employment discrimination, please contact SALDEF immediately at 202-393-2700 or

    ## END ###

    About SALDEF:
    SALDEF is a national non-profit civil rights and educational organization. SALDEF’s mission is to create a fostering environment in the United States for Sikh Americans. SALDEF protects and promotes the civil rights of Sikh Americans through legal aid, advocacy and educational outreach.

    Rajbir Singh Datta
    202-393-2700 ext. 27
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