BY MEENAKSHI IYER
New Delhi– America’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a nationwide lawsuit against US healthcare service providers for wrongfully terminating Indian-origin Sikh paramedic Ravinder Singh.
The lawsuit has been filed against Colorado-based Global Medical Response (GMR), and companies under it, American Medical Response (AMR) and its subsidiaries, for turning away a qualified paramedic in midst of a global pandemic.
In November 2020, AMR dismissed Singh after he requested and was denied personal protective equipment (PPE) that would accommodate his Sikh articles of faith, including his turban and beard.
The denial came even after Singh satisfied his training requirements, was hired to work for AMR and provided them with documentation about the Sikh articles of faith. But AMR still insisted upon Singh using an N95 mask as opposed to any other kind of PPE.
“It was extremely difficult to be turned away from that urgent work because of my faith, but now, I am able to be of service with appropriate and effective PPE in my new position. Ultimately, I’m supporting this legal action because no qualified professional should ever be forced to sit at home when they could be out saving lives,” Singh said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, many Sikhs in the US were initially asked or ordered to shave their facial hair in order to use N95 masks. Singh successfully used a Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR) during his paramedic training under AMR. PAPRs are used by paramedics to accommodate Pseudofolliculitis Barbae – a skin condition that does not allow for shaving and thus prohibits the use of an N95.
He was dismissed from his position in violation of his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
On behalf of Singh, the Sikh Coalition, a Sikh-American advocacy group, filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC in May 2021, and after an initial investigation, the EEOC found reasonable cause to conclude religious discrimination by GMR and AMR.
“We know that paramedics like Mr Singh are capable of performing their work with a PAPR and that AMR is capable of providing such equipment. Why any company would turn away a qualified paramedic and violate their civil rights in the middle of a global pandemic is beyond comprehension,” said Giselle Klapper, Senior Staff Attorney, Sikh Coalition.
The EEOC offered to mediate the case in February 2022, but after GMR and AMR declined, the employment rights panel subsequently voted to file the lawsuit against them, in which the Sikh Coalition and Buckley Beal LLP will continue to intervene in support of Singh.
“No one should be subjected to discrimination in the workplace because of their religious faith,” said Ed Buckley, Managing Partner, Buckley Beal. “We want people of all faiths to know that they have the right to be treated fairly and equally in the workplace,” he added. (IANS)