Sikhs, Muslims, Catholics, 7th Day Adventists, members of Jewish community, labor groups and others converged on the California State Capitol to support AB 1964: Workplace Religious Freedom Act of 2012 presented by Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada (D-Davis). Assembly Labor & Employment Committee heard the testimony of the interfaith community on April 19, 2012 and passed the bill with overwhelming support of the committee members.
The bill seeks to define the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 more explicitly so that all legal ambiguities are removed to ensure workplace freedom of faith of the most affected religious minorities. The most significant aspect of AB 1964 is that it includes religious clothing and hairstyles part of the religious beliefs. The segregation of an employee from the direct contact with the public won’t be considered as a reasonable accommodation.
The Sikh Coalitions, the sponsor of AB 1964 thanked members of the Sikh community for showing exemplary support for a bill that will benefit all communities. The Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society of Stockton incorporated on 27 May 1912 was represented by Mr. Manjit Singh Uppal, Bhai Sukhjivan Singh, Bhajan Singh Bhinder, and Manjit Singh Brar. West Sacramento Gurdwara president Mr. Balbir Singh Dhillon, executive members Surjit Singh Dhillon, Dr. Narinder Singh Dhaliwal, Baldev Singh, N.S. Thandi and Dr. Onkar Singh Bindra testified in support of the bill and emphasized that such a bill was long overdue to protect the civil rights of all citizens. Bhai Ranjit Singh of West Sacramento Gurdwara led a group of priests to show their support. J P Singh of El Sobrante Gurdwara along with many other members emphasized that the law enforcement by and large remains ignorant about Sikhs, therefore, can’t fairly police the community. Amar Shergill, the founder of The Shergill Law Firm supported the bill as a timely measure to end discrimination.
“Current religious discrimination and segregation in the workplace is akin to Rosa Parks being moved to the back of the bus,” said Assemblymember Yamada. “Sikhs, Muslims and other religious minorities should not have to be moved to the back of a store in order to continue to work and support their families. This bill will ensure that segregation is not an appropriate religious accommodation.”
Alan J. Reinach, Esq., Executive Director of the Church State Council testified that the current legal standard for religious accommodation often restrains people from being hired adding to rising unemployment.
“AB 1964 affirms the promise of equal opportunity for all workers in California,” said Simran Kaur, Advocacy Manager of the Sikh Coalition, a sponsor of the legislation. “We are pleased that the bill is moving forward.”
Besides Sikh Coalition (Sponsor) of the bill AB 1964, the support came from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO, Agudath Israel of California, American Jewish Committee, California Nurses Association, Church State Council, and Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)
AB 1964 will next be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 24, 2012.