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California to outlaw religious discrimination

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada speaking about the bill (Photo: Karaminder Ghuman)

California is working on a bill which it hopes will remove religious discrimination faced by Sikhs, Muslims and other ethnic groups in employment.

California Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada revealed plans to pass a bill to protect Sikhs and others from job discrimination.

Speaking at a press conference at the West Sacramento Sikh temple, the democrat from Davis told media that confusion over the 1964 Civil Rights Act has caused employers to treat Sikhs and Muslims who wear religious head dress and beards differently.

According to a report by Fox40 News, Yamada says workers are often segregated by companies with strict dress codes because workers are often not allowed to deal with customers.  Instead, they are assigned office or storeroom duties as an accommodation for religious beliefs.

Surrounded by members of the interfaith community at the conference, Yamada says the legislation, known as the Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 (AB1964), will be considered by two legislative committees this month.

California Sikhs continue to experience job discrimination because of their Sikh articles of faith, says The Sikh Coalition.

According to a Sikh Coalition report published in 2010, approximately 12% of Sikhs in the San Francisco Bay Area believe that they have experienced job discrimination. Major law enforcement agencies in California refuse to hire Sikhs.

In addition, loopholes in federal law make Sikhs vulnerable to workplace segregation.

Assemblymember Mariko Yamada speaking about the bill (Photo: Karaminder Ghuman)

If AB1964 passes, it will significantly reduce job discrimination against Sikhs and other religious minorities and outlaw segregation in California, one of the largest economies in the world, says the Coalition.

Last fall, a six-year effort by the Sikh Coalition culminated in New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signing into law a city version of the Workplace Religious Freedom Act.

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