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California Sikh gets prison guard job, $295k in discrimination case

(Editor's Note: An earlier version of this report incorrectly specified the compensation amount as $95,000) 

Six years after he was denied a prison guard's job in California as he refused to shave off his beard required by his Sikh religion, an Indian-American has finally been appointed as a correctional officer in the prison and won $295,000 in damages.

Trilochan Singh Oberoi, 63, has reached a settlement in this regard with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) as a result of which he would start his duty as a correctional officer from November 1. AP

Trilochan Singh Oberoi, 63, has reached a settlement in this regard with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) as a result of which he would start his duty as a correctional officer from November 1.

"Oberoi's legal battle exemplifies the challenges many Sikhs face in the US in seeking private and government employment after 9/11, as widespread ignorance, prejudice and hate pose serious challenges to equal opportunity for South Asians, and particularly Sikh Americans, who are often mistaken for Middle Eastern terrorists," said attorney Harmeet K Dhillon, who represented Oberoi.

In 2005, Oberoi applied for a position as a correctional officer with the CDCR, according to a statement issued on Friday.

Oberoi advanced to the final stage of the application process, which involved being fit-tested with a particular model of tight-fitting respirator mask, and was told that he could not take the test unless he were to shave off his beard.

Oberoi requested that the CDCR accommodate his religiously mandated beard, but was not granted such an accommodation and was not hired by the CDCR in any capacity.

After making numerous attempts over the next year to ascertain the status of his accommodation request, in February 2007, he filed an appeal with the California State Personnel Board (SPB) concerning the CDCR's denial of his opportunity to complete the correctional officer application because of his religiously-mandated beard.

PTI

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