A human rights case that was to go before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), involving the right of a Sikh limousine driver to maintain a beard, has settled.
The case involving Gurmukh Singh and the Aaroport Limousine Service began in July 2011 when Mr. Singh was found in violation of Aaroport’s dress code due to his untied beard. Mr. Singh was taken off the company's dispatch system unless he agreed to either trim or tie his beard. Aaroport’s dress code requires drivers to be “neat and tidy in appearance and maintain proper personal hygiene.”
Mr. Singh maintains uncut hair as a part of his Sikh faith. Many observant Sikhs do not tie their beards as a tenet of their faith.
An application to the HRTO was filed on Mr. Singh’s behalf by his union, the CAW Local 252. The World Sikh Organization of Canada applied for and was granted intervener status in the case.
As per an order issued by the HRTO, the case which was to be heard on January 14, 2013 has now been settled. Although the terms of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement, the company has confirmed independently that Sikh drivers are no longer prohibited from maintaining untied beards while being employed by Aaroport.
WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh said, “Aaroport should be commended for taking this step . A restriction on a Sikh maintaining an untied beard, based on a company’s esthetic preferences, cannot stand up to legal scrutiny. The law is clear that where an individual has a sincerely held religious practice or belief, it must be accommodated to the point of undue hardship. We are pleased that Aaroport has recognized its human rights obligations and will allow their Sikh drivers to fulfill their employment obligations while respecting their religious beliefs.”
WSO Ontario Vice President Ranjit Singh Dulay said, “we are very pleased that the parties have reached a settlement and that Aaroport Limousine will now permit Sikh drivers to freely practice their religious beliefs, and maintain untied beards. Individuals such as Gurmukh Singh play a very important role in our society. By raising such issues, they ensure that not just Sikhs but all Canadians have the right to freely practice their faith.”
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs, as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.