AMERICA: A Sikh woman who suffered racial, religious and sexual harassment on the job has obtained justice by standing up to her employer.
In a settlement agreement, National Wholesale Liquidators (NWL), Mrs. Sukhbir Kaur's former employer, agreed to make changes to their employment policies and pay money damages to nine victims of harassment, including Mrs. Kaur.
The settlement sends a strong message to private employers that discrimination against Sikhs is illegal and will be harshly punished.
Mrs. Kaur's lawsuit alleged that in 2004 an NWL store manager harassed Mrs. Kaur because she was a Sikh, a woman, and Indian.
The manager told her to remove her turban because she "would appear sexier without it." When she refused the manager's repeated advances, he told her that she was not permitted to use the bathroom and would have to wear a diaper to work.
NWL failed to take appropriate action to address and correct the harassment, even after Mrs. Kaur complained. Instead, she was fired.
Mrs. Kaur's matter was first brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) attention in July 2005, when the Sikh Coalition filed a charge of discrimination on her behalf with the agency.
The EEOC subsequently conducted an investigation and found that many South Asian workers at NWL's Long Island City store in Queens, NY were being harassed. They endured constant taunts about their national origin and religion, such as "All Indians are nasty," "Sikhs are thieves" or "I'm tired of seeing old Indian faces all the time."
Mrs. Kaur and the EEOC attempted to reach a voluntary settlement with NWL once the charges were filed. When these efforts failed, the EEOC and the Sikh Coalition both filed lawsuits in 2007. Mrs. Kaur was co-represented by the Sikh Coalition and attorney Ravinder Singh Bhalla.