Disney Sued for Alleged Religious Discrimination

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Sikh musician refused job due to turban at Walt Disney World Amusement Park. Mr. Sukhbir Channa, a practitioner of the Sikh religion, applied for a job with Disney in the Fall of 2006 but was not hired and was allegedly told that he did not have "the Disney look" - a negative reference to his religiously-mandated dastaar (Sikh turban). Witnesses have filed affidavits in his support. The lawsuit seeks financial damages and a court order barring Disney from ever discriminating against prospective Sikh employees.

Disney's position is fundamentally un-American because it forces Sikhs and also observant Jews and Muslims to sacrifice religious freedom in order to pursue their career goals

The Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF), the oldest Sikh American civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, in collaboration with Matthew Sarelson of Sarelson, P.A., has filed a class action religious discrimination lawsuit against Walt Disney World Company on behalf of Mr. Sukhbir Channa and the Sikh American community.

Mr. Channa, a practitioner of the Sikh religion, applied for a job with Disney in the Fall of 2006 but was not hired and was allegedly told that he did not have "the Disney look" -- a negative reference to his religiously-mandated dastaar (Sikh turban). Witnesses have filed affidavits in his support. The lawsuit seeks financial damages and a court order barring Disney from ever discriminating against prospective Sikh employees.

"Disney's position is fundamentally un-American because it forces Sikhs and also observant Jews and Muslims to sacrifice religious freedom in order to pursue their career goals," said SALDEF Chairman Manjit Singh. "It is also hypocritical for Disney to make millions of dollars promoting cartoon characters that wear turbans and simultaneously reject the right of an employee to wear a turban in accordance with his faith."

Click here to review the Complaint -- Case No. 08-13246.

Background on Sikhism:
Founded over 500 years ago in India by Guru Nanak, Sikhism is a distinct world religion that preaches universal equality and compassion. There are more than 25 million Sikhs throughout the world and over 500,000 adherents in the United States. Observant Sikh men are required by their faith to keep their hair uncut and covered with a turban; the turban is optional for Sikh women. These constitutionally-protected articles of faith have deep religious significance for Sikhs and represent a Sikh's personal relationship with and devotion to God. Accordingly, Sikhs treat these articles of faith with the utmost respect and pride.

To stay updated on the progress of this case, please visit: http://www.saldef.org.

MEDIA: Click here for a copy of the Press Packet.

To read about some of the previous cases SALDEF has handled regarding religious accommodation, please read below:

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Rajbir Singh Datta
SALDEF
202-393-2700
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Matt Sarelson
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