A New Jersey car dealership will pay monetary compensation to a Sikh man to settle a religious discrimination lawsuit which alleged that he was not hired by the dealership because he keeps a beard.
Under the settlement reached in the case, the car dealership would pay $50,000 (about Rs 31 lakh) to Gurpreet Kherha and has been urged to not discriminate on the basis of religion in future.
Kherha had filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a lawsuit in 2009 against Tri-County Lexus, where he had applied for a position as a sales associate and was qualified for the job.
The EEOC stated that after the car dealership requested Kherha to shave his beard, he refused to comply due to his religious beliefs. The dealership denied him the job, the agency charged.
According to the lawsuit, Tri-County Lexus had a "no-beard" policy for sales and administrative personnel and it strictly enforced its dress code policy without granting reasonable religious accommodations.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Kherha by rights group Sikh Coalition and the EEOC.
Tri-County has also entered into a two-year consent decree with the federal government under which it is required to undertake a series of "remedial" measures, including revising its written policies and procedures prohibiting employment discrimination and providing anti-discrimination training to employees and management.
It is also required to post a notice regarding the resolution of the lawsuit.
Kherha said he had stood up for himself as well as for the Sikh community.
"Educating the public about our religion is invaluable, as is standing up for our rights, and serves not only this generation but future generations as well," he said.
EEOC regional attorney Elizabeth Grossman said the settlement would protect employees and future applicants from religious discrimination, besides serving as a vehicle to educate other employers about the Sikh faith.
"As this settlement demonstrates, Sikh Americans have a right to live, work, and thrive in the US, just like anyone else. We will continue to stand up against employers who fail to understand their legal obligations to provide religious accommodations and keep Sikhs and other religious minorities out of the workplace," staff attorney at the Sikh Coalition Gurjot Kaur said.
Kherha had contacted the Sikh Coalition in 2008 with his case.