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Sikh Ex-Traffic Agent to Sue N.Y.P.D.


Newsday, Mar. 4, 2003

"A former traffic agent who was fired from the N.Y.P.D. for refusing to remove his turban or cut his beard, tenets of his Sikh religious beliefs, will file a civil rights lawsuit Tuesday in a move that could ultimately change the traditional appearance of the nation's largest and most storied police force. The Sikh Coalition will file a federal lawsuit on behalf of Amric Singh Rathour, 26, of Ozone Park, in Manhattan's federal court claiming that the N.Y.P.D.'s turban prohibition and strict beard regulations constitute unlawful employment discrimination, according to Prabhjot Singh, spokesman for the nonprofit organization promoting Sikh culture."
" 'Amric's lawsuit, at long last, will give the Sikh community its day in court,' Rathour's attorney Ravinder Singh Bhalla said. 'It has come down to a point where this case is not about safety, recognizability, esprit de corps, it comes down to discrimination, a stubborn agency that refuses to listen. If Sikh officers in other countries are serving honorably, how is New York City any different?' Rathour was sworn in as an N.Y.P.D. traffic agent on Jun. 18, 2001. But soon after starting his training, a supervisor approached told him he was in violation of the department's guidelines that allow beards of no more than 1 millimeter in length and require that any religious headwear fit completely under the traffic agent eight-point hat 'without any articles visible.' "