NEW YORK, Feb. 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Sikh filed a discrimination lawsuit today after being told to remove his religiously-mandated beard if he wanted a job. The Sikh, Gurpreet Singh Kherha, filed his lawsuit in New Jersey state court against Tri-County Lexus where he wanted to work as a sales representative.
In 2008, Mr. Kherha was recruited for a sales position at Tri-County Lexus in Little Falls, New Jersey. After completing two days of training at Lexus, Mr. Kherha participated in a final group interview with a Tri-County Lexus manager.
After the interview ended, a recruiter approached Mr. Kherha to ask if his beard is a religious requirement. Mr. Kherha explained that he is a practicing Sikh who does not cut his hair, including his facial hair. The recruiter then asked Mr. Kherha if he would be willing to remove his beard in order to obtain a job as a Tri-County Lexus sales representative. Mr. Kherha replied he would not.
The recruiter then left Mr. Kherha to speak to his colleagues. Upon his return he informed Mr. Kherha that he had not been selected for a sales position at Tri-County Lexus.
The recruiter told Gurpreet that Tri-County Lexus' General Manager stated he was "exactly what they were looking for," "well-qualified" and "well-educated" but that the company has a corporate policy prohibiting salespersons from maintaining facial hair. The recruiter also stated that Tri-County's general manager had contacted the corporate headquarters to request an accommodation for Mr. Kherha's religious practices, but had been rejected.
"I am taking a stand against not only Tri-County Lexus, but all employers who discriminate against qualified applicants," said Mr. Kherha. "I don't want any other Sikh to be told they are well educated and well qualified, but not hired because of their faith."
The Sikh Coalition has represented Mr. Kherha since April 2008. The Coalition engaged attorney Ravinder Singh Bhalla, an experienced New Jersey litigator, to work with jointly on the case. Since then, the legal team has:
- Been in direct contact with attorneys for Tri-County Lexus, which denies any wrong-doing.
- Filed a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The legal team has met with the EEOC and is cooperating with the agency's ongoing investigation of the case.
- Filed a lawsuit in New Jersey state court to vindicate Mr. Kherha's rights.
"Tri-County Lexus forced a Sikh to choose between his religion and employment," said Ravinder S. Bhalla. "Now they will have to answer for their discrimination in court."
Sikhism is the fifth largest world religion, with approximately 21 million adherents worldwide. Under the principals of their faith, Sikhs are mandated to leave their hair uncut, wrapping the hair on their heads underneath a turban.
Since 9/11, misperceptions about this appearance have led to hate attacks and discrimination against Sikhs across the country, by both public and private actors. The Sikh Coalition has worked to end this discrimination.
A copy of the lawsuit is available online at
SOURCE Sikh Coalition