Dept. of Homeland Security Amends Uniform Policy for Sikhs

By: Angela Abbamonte

The Department of Homeland Security has amended its uniform and grooming policies after a Sikh man lost his job for wearing a turban and refusing to shave.

Federal standards had required security guards to be clean-shaven and to wear a specified uniform and hat, two things that conflict with Sikh requirements to wear a turban and leave their hair uncut.

Raghbir Singh was fired in 2005 from his job as a contracted federal security guard. The Federal Protective Service denied Singh’s request for permission to keep his beard, turban and job.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the component of the Department of Homeland Security that handled the case, said it is “committed to accommodating the religious practices of FPS security guards, provided these accommodations are consistent with current legal and constitutional standards and meet FPS’ essential mission requirements—particularly those affecting employee and public safety.”

Besides the policy exemption, the settlement also included monetary damages for Singh’s wrongful termination. The Sikh Coalition called the settlement a “major civil rights victory for the Sikh community.”

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