Postman wins 'turban battle' against Disney

Mr Gurdit Singh, who has worked at the Disney theme park in Florida since 2008, has until recently been assigned to only one delivery route which kept him away from customers, while other staff plied routes where they were visible to guests.
Mr Gurdit Singh, who has worked at the Disney theme park in Florida since 2008, has until recently been assigned to only one delivery route which kept him away from customers, while other staff plied routes where they were visible to guests.PHOTO: BBC

Kept out of sight over his beard and turban, he now delivers mail in full view of patrons

MIAMI • A Sikh postman at Disney World in Florida has won a legal fight against the global entertainment giant after he said he had been made to work away from customers so they would not see his beard and turban.

Lawyers for Mr Gurdit Singh said he had been segregated from staff and customers at the Florida theme park because he violated a "look policy", the BBC reported.

Disney now says Mr Singh can deliver post on all routes, in full view of customers. It says it does not discriminate based on religion.

Mr Singh, who has worked at the theme park since 2008 but always out of sight of visitors, said he was "incredibly thankful" Disney had decided to change course.

"My hope is that this policy change opens up the door for more Sikhs and other religious minorities to practise their faith freely here at Disney.

"My turban and beard serve as a constant reminder of my commitment to my faith... these articles remind everybody that we're all equal. That is not just a Sikh value, that is an American value."

In May, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union and The Sikh Coalition, an advocacy group for the religion, wrote to Disney expressing their concerns over Mr Singh's treatment.

They said he had been assigned to only one delivery route which kept him away from customers, while other staff were rotated through different assignments where they were visible to guests, the BBC said.

They argued this was "specifically, because of his racial/ethnic and religious appearance", and was a violation of his civil rights.

Disney has now put him on all the routes and said it is "committed to diversity and prohibits discrimination based upon religion".

Mr Singh remains in his job, delivering post at the park, and says he is happy to work for the company.

Ms Gurjot Kaur, a lawyer acting for The Sikh Coalition, said her client first applied for a job at Disney in 2005, and was told he would have to work in the back, cleaning the carpark or in the kitchen. "The interviewer indicated that he could not work in front of guests because of his turban and beard," she said.

Mr Singh did not take up the position, but applied again in 2008, initially to work as a doorman.

Despite extensive experience in hospitality, Ms Kaur said her client was denied the job "because his 'costume' did not match the 'costume' necessary", and Mr Singh took the word "costume" to mean his turban and beard.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'Postman wins 'turban battle' against Disney'. Print Edition | Subscribe