A Sikh doctor in the US has filed a lawsuit against an American medical organisation alleging he was denied a neurology job for his religious appearance. Jaswinder Pal Singh of Kentucky is a licensed and board certified physician practising in the area of neurology.
Sikh advocacy group, The Sikh Coalition, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in the US District Court for the Middle district of Tennessee on behalf of Singh. The lawsuit alleges that Singh, an observant Sikh physician who keeps a religiously mandated turban and beard, was denied a neurology job after the employer and recruiter inquired into his religious appearance.
As part of the 2014 hiring process, the employer Premier Medical Group and its recruiter Arthur Marshall Inc expressed interest and concern about the way Singh looked, the suit further alleges. Though the recruiter praised Singh’s credentials in phone interviews, Singh was allegedly abruptly denied further interviews after he submitted photographs of himself, along with additional information on Sikhs and Sikhism. The job then remained vacant, it said.
“It was very clear to me that I was denied employment because of my ethnic background and religious appearance,” Singh said in a statement released by the coalition.
“No Sikh in any job or profession should ever be denied employment because of their religion. By speaking out and taking action, I know that we will continue to hold employers directly accountable,” said Singh, who migrated to the US from India in 2008.
According to the lawsuit, around September 2014, an individual from the recruiter firm indicated that the Premier Medical Group had reservations about Singh’s candidacy and wanted information about his appearance, specifically ‘how you appear’ and ‘what you look like’.
Singh explained that he is a Sikh and maintains unshorn hair including a beard and wears a turban in accordance with his faith to which the individual allegedly replied that he did not know who Sikhs were.
“Defendants failed and refused to hire (Singh) for the available neurologist position at Premier Medical Group because of his race (South Asian/Punjabi), colour, religion (Sikh) and/or national origin (Indian),” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit seeks to secure a court order requiring that both defendants implement anti discrimination policies, practices and training to ensure that they do not discriminate against any future applicants.
In 2015, the coalition had represented Singh in filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). After the EEOC issued a right to sue notice, the rights group filed the anti-discrimination lawsuit. Last month, the coalition announced a massive legal victory on behalf of four Sikh truck drivers who were denied jobs by one of the largest trucking companies in the US.