ORLANDO, Fla. – A Sikh American deliveryman who claimed his routes at Walt Disney World were restricted so visitors wouldn't see his turban and unshaved beard has won the right to have the same routes as other delivery workers.
Walt Disney World Resort issued a letter last month saying that Gurdit Singh would be granted a religious accommodation from Disney's strict grooming guidelines, known as "The Disney Look." The Disney Look requires workers to have neatly cut hair, no unnatural hair colors and no visible tattoos. The company only started allowing workers to grow beards in 2012, but the beards have to be neatly trimmed.
The ACLU and The Sikh Coalition had threatened legal action. Only last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Muslim woman who didn't get hired by Abercrombie & Fitch after showing up wearing a religious headscarf, also known as a hijab.
"The court made clear that companies can't just turn a blind eye to employees who need accommodating," Heather Weaver, an ACLU attorney who represented Singh, said Friday.
Disney attorney Armando Rodriguez-Feo said in the letter that the company is devoted to diversity.
"The Walt Disney World Resort responds positively to requests for reasonable religious accommodations that do not create an undue hardship for the company," Rodriguez-Feo said.
Singh had been denied career advancements and been segregated from co-workers because he was limited to a single route outside the view of Disney guests, according to a letter Singh's attorneys sent top Disney CEO Robert Iger and other Disney executives.
Singh is made to feel "singled-out, humiliated, and ashamed because of the way he looks and what he believes," the letter said.
The Disney Look has previously clashed with the religious garb of its workers.
A Muslim employee who had worked at a cafe at Disney's California Adventured sued the company in 2012 for religious discrimination when she says she was denied the right to wear a hijab. Imane Boudlal claimed her managers told her she could either work in a back area where she wouldn't be seen by guests or wear a fedora on top of the hijab. She said she was fired when she refused. The lawsuit was eventually settled, Weaver said.
According to the company's career Web site, The Disney Look is "a classic look that is clean, natural, polished and professional, and avoids 'cutting edge' trends or extreme styles."
The ACLU and The Sikh Coalition in the letter to Iger had asked for revisions to The Disney Look to accommodate religion. Weaver said they have interpreted Rodriguez-Feo's letter as an acknowledgment that The Disney Look must give way to religious accommodation in certain circumstances.
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