Sikh seeks damages for being forced to remove turban

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : A Sikh security guard, who says he was forced to remove his turban and wear a helmet on duty at a Home Depot retail outlet here, has sought $40,000 in compensation from the home furnishing giant.

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Home Depot is Georgia-based American home furnishing retail giant with outlets across North America.

In his testimony before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Commission here Tuesday and Wednesday, Deepinder Loomba also sought changes in workplace policies at Home Depot outlets to accommodate other religious beliefs.

During his cross-examination over the four-year-old incident, Loomba told the tribunal that for his refusal to remove turban for his religious beliefs, he was threatened with dismissal by the Home Depot assistant manager.

Recalling the incident, Loomba said when he reported for duty on Dec 6, 2005, at the Home Depot which was still under construction, he was asked by the assistant manager to wear a hard helmet though his job was only to guard the exterior of the site.

He said there was no need for him to wear a hard hat because his job was simply to keep a watch at the site.

He said when he didn’t comply with his orders, the assistant manager became rude and threatened to have him “fired” by his employer Reilly’s Security Services.

Loomba said the treatment caused him emotional distress and violated his religious rights as a Sikh.

Raj Ananda, lawyer for Looomba, said his client had filed a complaint with Home Depot for ill-treatment, but there was no response to it for more than 18 months.

He said his client felt insulted and degraded, developing deep anxiety, headaches and insomnia.

The lawyer said his client “has the right to wear his turban. It is part of his religious observance and the law is essentially that he cannot be prevented from doing that unless it would create a very extreme health and safety risk to himself or others”.