THE World Sikh Organization of Canada has assisted a Toronto Sikh student who was prevented from wearing his kara (Sikh bracelet) while working at a local food processing facility.
On September 13, 2014, Jagroop Singh Pandher was working as a palletizer at the Give & Go Prepared Food Corporation when he was told, in reference to his kara, that he would not be permitted to wear his ‘jewelry’ on the job. Jagroop Singh’s kara could not be seen at the time, as it was rolled tightly up his arm and was not loose.
Despite attempts to explain its significance, Jagroop Singh was told that if he wished to continue working at the facility, he would have to remove his kara.
No clear safety risk was identified as to why the kara could not be worn while being restrained on the arm as Jagroop Singh was wearing it.
The kara or iron bracelet is an important Sikh article of faith that is worn at all times and represents the Sikh’s obligation to perform righteous deeds and to remain in remembrance of God.
Jagroop Singh contacted the WSO for assistance and WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh approached the Give & Go Prepared Food Corporation in order to resolve the situation.
After explaining the significance of the kara, why it is not removed by Sikhs and reviewing the safety issues being raised by Give & Go, an accommodation policy has been agreed upon which safeguards Jagroop Singh’s religious freedoms while ensuring safety is not compromised.
Sikh workers will now be permitted to wear the kara on the job, as long as the kara is worn tightly on the arm, restrained with an elbow support and covered by a rolled down sleeve. As with other employees, the arm and hands are to be covered with a glove and disposable sleeve.
WSO Ontario Vice President Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria said, “We are glad that Give & Go Prepared Foods has taken their legal obligation to accommodate seriously and have worked in good faith to find a mutually acceptable resolution. This situation illustrates that through dialogue we can find ways to balance religious rights and safety concerns. We commend Jagroop Singh for having had the courage to stand up for his rights and effecting a change, not just for himself but for other Sikhs as well.”
Jagroop Singh said, “I’ve realized that until someone takes the initiative to challenge a rule that is discriminatory, things don’t change. As a result, I now know more about my legal rights and the company knows more about the Sikh faith. I’d like to thank the WSO for all their help in making this possible and would encourage others who are facing any type of difficulty at the workplace to stand up for their rights and to contact the WSO for advice and assistance.”