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California bill bans religious discrimination in the workplace

On Monday, September 10, Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills designed to combat anti-Sikh discrimination. The gathering of over 500 Sikhs from as far as Texas and Colorado enthusiastically welcomed the two new pieces of legislation.

The Workplace Religious Freedom Act, Assembly Bill 1964 ensures equal protection for employees under the law by protecting workers who wear turbans, hijabs and yarmulkes. Brown also signed an education-based bill, Senate Bill 1540, which will add the history, tradition and theology of California Sikhs into the history and social sciences curricula.

In the wake of the tragic shootings in Wisconsin at a Sikh temple, these bills reflect the honoring of the thousands of Sikhs who have lost their lives in a struggle for religious freedom in India and the United States. The identity of California as a state built by waves of immigrants, since the Gold Rush of 1849, was emphasized by Gov. Brown and the writers of the two bills.

The equal protection of workers under the law from discrimination is important, not only because California is so diverse, but in order to guarantee that all workers are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of religious or cultural factors. Not all cases of workplace discrimination stem from something as obvious as a religious head covering or a necklace, however, and it can be difficult to pursue a way to make it right.

In California alone there were 500 cases of religious discrimination in 2011. Suffering from a hostile work environment, demotion or denial of opportunities at work is a violation of workers' rights, and acting quickly in order to gain legal assistance can help to protect your rights. Issues of workplace retaliation are also best handled by qualified and experienced attorneys.

Source: The Sacramento Bee, "Calif. Gov. Brown signs bill banning religious discrimination," Stephen Magagnini, Sep. 10, 2012

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