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Sikh Coalition reaches settlement in Federal Lawsuit for Sikh allegedly denied Job because of beard

November 20, 2013 | By

New York, NY (November 19, 2013): It is learnt that the Sikh Coalition, Ravinder Bhalla, Esq. of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, LLC., and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reached a settlement with Tri-County Lexus, a car dealership in Little Falls, New Jersey, on behalf of Mr. Gurpreet S. Kherha.

According to a newsletter released by the Sikh Coalition: “Mr. Kherha, represented jointly by attorneys at the Sikh Coalition and Mr. Bhalla, filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC and a lawsuit in 2009, claiming he was not hired by the car dealership because he maintains a beard, in violation of the dealership’s ‘no-beard’ policy for sales and administrative personnel. Mr. Kherha, who maintains an unshorn beard (and wears a turban) as part of his Sikh religious practice, alleged that he was denied a religious accommodation to the dealership’s dress code policy and refused a position in early 2008 during the recruiting process, despite being fully qualified”.

As part of the settlement, Tri-County Lexus has agreed to pay Mr. Kherha $50,000 in compensatory damages, and has entered into a two-year consent decree with the federal government.

Consent Decree

The Consent Decree requires Tri-County Lexus to undertake a series of remedial measures for the next two years, which include:

Revising its written policies and procedures prohibiting employment discrimination;

Providing ongoing trainings to all staff on anti-discrimination laws, with a focus on religious discrimination and religious accommodation laws and;

Ensuring a copy of its revised policies are provided to any applicant (not just employee) who requests a religious accommodation during the hiring or interviewing process.

The EEOC will monitor and ensure the dealership’s compliance with the terms of the court-ordered consent decree.

“As this settlement demonstrates, Sikh Americans have a right to live, work, and thrive in the U.S., 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,” said Gurjot Kaur, Staff Attorney at the Sikh Coalition.

EEOC and Kherha v. United Galaxy Inc., d/b/a Tri-County Lexus Time Line:

Spring 2008: Gurpreet Kherha Contacts Sikh Coalition

Winter 2008: Sikh Coalition Attorneys File Charge of Discrimination with EEOC

2009: EEOC Investigates

Feb. 2010: Sikh Coalition Files Lawsuit Against Lexus Dealership for Refusing to Hire Sikh in State Court

March 2010: EEOC Determines Sikh Suffered Discrimination by Lexus Dealership

Oct. 2010: EEOC Files Federal Lawsuit Against Lexus Dealership

Feb. 2011: Sikh Coalition Joins EEOC’s Lawsuit Against Lexus Dealership in Federal Court and Brings State and Federal Discrimination Claims

2011: Parties Engage in Pre-Litigation Procedures Including Discovery, Depositions, Settlement Negotiations

April 2012: Defendant Moves for Summary Judgment to Dismiss Kherha’s Case in its Entirety

May 2012: Plaintiffs File Opposition Papers to Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment

July 2012: Defendant Files Reply to Plaintiffs’ Opposition Papers

June 2013: All Parties Present Oral Arguments in Federal Court in New Jersey

July 2013: Defendant Loses Motion for Summary Judgment on All Counts; Case Proceeds to Trial; Court Sets Pre-Trial Conference Dates

July – November 2013: Parties Enter into Settlement Discussions

November 2013: Case Settles, Defendant Enters into Consent Decree

“The Sikh Coalition would like to thank our co-counsel Ravinder S. Bhalla, Esq. of Florio, Perrucci, Steinhardt & Fader, LLC., and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, particularly attorneys Elizabeth Grossman and Jadhira Rivera, for their dedicated efforts on behalf of Mr. Kherha” reads the newsletter.

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