Dept of Corrections Discriminated Against Sikh

December 2, 2008

Author: Staff Writer

Source: India Post

In a significant decision, an administrative court found that California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) discriminated against a Sikh man who applied for a correctional officer job. CDCR had refused to give the Sikh a job because he would not shave his religiously-mandated beard for a gasmask fit test. The ruling sends a strong message to state agencies to ensure equal employment opportunities for religious minorities.

Trilochan S. Oberoi, a devout Sikh, has never cut his hair (including facial hair), in accordance with the mandates of his faith. He served 26 years in India's Navy and 10 years in the merchant marines before immigrating to Folsom, CA in 2001. During that time, he was required to use several types of gasmasks and respirators.

His beard had never been an impediment.When Oberoi applied for a correctional officer job, however, CDCR told him that he must appear clean-shaven for a gasmask fit test. According to the agency, correctional officers cannot wear gasmasks properly unless they are clean-shaven. When Oberoi told CDCR that he could not shave for the gasmask fit test, CDCR refused to hire him. Oberoi responded by filing a complaint with California's State Personnel Board to safeguard his rights.