American Turban

Picture of the Day: CA Assemblywoman Yamada announces workplace religious freedom bill

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada speaking about AB1964 - "Sikhs and Muslims shouldn't have to go to the back of the store in order to continue employment or to support their families". (photo: Karaminder Ghuman/Sikh Coalition)

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada speaking about AB1964 - "Sikhs and Muslims shouldn't have to go to the back of the store in order to continue employment or to support their families". (photo: Karaminder Ghuman/Sikh Coalition)

California Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada held a press conference yesterday at the Gurdwara in West Sacramento, California, alongside representatives of the Sikh Coalition, the Council of American-Islamic Relations – Sacramento Valley, and the local Sikh community to speak about the Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 (also known as AB1964) – the legislation she introduced to the California State Legislature to bolster the protection of workplace religious freedom in California.

Presently, federal law does not provide adequate protections to guarantee that a person would not be discriminated against based on their religious practices by an employer. For example, under current law, an employer can justify forcing a Sikh employee who maintains his or her articles of faith to be removed from public view on the basis that their appearance would cause them a minimal level of hardship and impact upon their business.

Yamada likened this scenario to a Rosa Parks-like situation (which was a very poignant analogy), who, in the late 1950s, refused to give up a seat on a bus to a white passenger, when African Americans were segregated and forced to sit in the rear of the bus.

The Sikh Coalition has been successful in having a version of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act passed in New York city.  The current initiative has direct bearing on the Sikhs of California, and indeed sets a precedent for Sikhs across the United States who are often discriminated against based on their appearance. For more information, see the Sikh Coalition website.

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