On Saturday, whole South Asian community celebrated the victory of Kamala Harris as US Vice President elect. She would be the first woman of black and Indian descent to hold the VP office. But no matter how extraordinary this victory seems, one can’t deny Kamala’s record of the criminal justice prosecutor. Recently an incident is circulating on the internet about a Sikh guy who was denied a job opportunity because of his beard and Kamala defended the State against him.
What happened: A Sikh Facebook group has refused to get swept off by Kamala Harris’s election as Vice-President of USA and has reminded its followers about her questionable role in a lawsuit filed by a Sikh man challenging an official agency of California for denial of a job to him because of his beard.
Background: An article circulated by citysikhs.org.uk, one of the largest International Sikh groups on Facebook, Trilochan Oberoi, a former commander in the Indian Navy, was denied a job as a state corrections officer in California in USA in 2005 because he refused to shave his beard. The beard posed a problem for the mandated gas-mask fitting.
When Oberoi appealed, an arbitration board ruled in his favour and said the state agency had discriminated against him by making “no effort” to find an alternative for Jolly, like giving him a mask different from the ones in use.
Oberoi reapplied for the position and was again denied. He then sued the state.
What Kamala did: In the court filings, Kamala, who represented as California’s first Indian-American attorney general backed the Department of Correction, arguing that Oberoi couldn’t be properly fitted for a gas mask unless he shaved and that no exception to the rule had been made since the policy came into effect in 2004.
The state settled the case in 2011, six years after Oberoi had originally applied for the job, paying Oberoi $295,000 in damages and giving him a manager position in the corrections department. But no change was made to the no-beard policy.
What Kamala has to say: Kate Waters, spokeswoman for the Harris campaign, explained to the RNS (Religion News Service) report published on July 2, 2019, under the headline “Sikh activists ask Kamala Harris for apology over beard ban for California prison guards” in an email that Harris’s hands were tied. “Attorney General of California, Senator Harris was obligated to defend state clients including the Department of Corrections,” Waters said.