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SALDEF meets with EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru


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    On July 10, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the oldest national Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization in the country, met with Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner Stuart Ishmaru. The goals of this meeting were to increase understanding of Sikh religious and cultural practices and to discuss strategies for ensuring that Sikhs are not illegally discriminated against in the workplace. Also attending the meeting were representatives from the Sikh Coalition and United Sikhs.

    In a prepared memo to the EEOC, SALDEF wrote that "(we) believe it is imperative that the EEOC further enhance its understanding of the cultural practices and traditions of Sikh Americans. Sikh Americans run into a number of employment issues, which are markedly different from other faith groups and culture."

    SALDEF is currently involved in addressing over a dozen different legal complaints concerning workplace discrimination. It discussed with the EEOC cases where Sikh Americans were fired because of uniform policies that interfered with the wearing of the religiously mandated dastaar (turban) or kirpan, or because workplace drug testing policies that required the cutting of hair. In all of these cases, Sikh Americans were prohibited from full enjoyment of the right to freedom of religious expression.

    “The meeting was a great first step in developing a long term relationship between the EEOC and our community," remarked SALDEF Associate Director Rajbir Singh Datta. "Our hope is to continue working with the EEOC nationally and locally to ensure their investigators understand the concerns and issues our community faces. It is important for there to be effective lines of communication between the Sikh community and the federal government if we are to ensure that every Sikh American is able to enjoy his full constitutional right to freedom of religion within the workplace."

    SALDEF would like to thank EEOC Commissioner Stuart Ishimaru for taking the time to meet with and better
    understand the concerns of the Sikh American community. If you believe you are the victim of employment discrimination, please submit an online complaint, or contact SALDEF at 202-393-2700 ext 27 or

    To view a few examples of SALDEF’s previous meetings and collaborations with high-ranking government officials, please click here:

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