Sikh wins Md. discrimination suit

April 02, 1992|By James Bock | James Bock,Staff Writer

A bearded Sikh immigrant has won the right to an all-American job at Domino's Pizza.

Prabhjot S. Kohli, 53, of Catonsville, suffered religious discrimination when a local Domino's franchisee refused to hire him in 1987 as a manager in training because Mr. Kohli wouldn't shave his beard, an administrative law judge has ruled.

Judge Merry C. Hudson ordered LOOC Inc., the Timonium-based franchisee, to offer Mr. Kohli the next available manager-trainee position and give him nearly $6,000 in back pay. She also told the company to revise its "no-beard" policy to accommodate people whose religious beliefs prohibit shaving if they're willing to wear a beard net, as Mr. Kohli was.

"This is the first case involving religious accommodation and a no-beard policy nationwide where the plaintiff has been successful," said Sally L. Swann, a lawyer for the Maryland Human Relations Commission, which brought the charges.

Mr. Kohli said he was "pleased that in this country, human rights are more valuable than the foolish idols of corporate leadership who just make policy to suit their whims."

The Domino's franchisee, which has two dozen outlets in the Baltimore area, wouldn't say yesterday whether it would appeal.

"We're evaluating the decision, and we don't have a comment at this point," said Kathleen Pontone, a lawyer who represented LOOC.

The Sikh religion is a sect of Hinduism founded in northwestern India and followed by 14 million people, including 300,000 in the United States. Sikh scripture prohibits the faithful from cutting their body hair. A Sikh who does so may be excommunicated. A devout Sikh also wears a turban and a small dagger on his body.

Mr. Kohli's desire to work as a Domino's manager collided with ^ C long-standing corporate policy against beards adopted in 1978. A LOOC official told Mr. Kohli he couldn't work for Domino's unless he shaved. Officials at Domino's headquarters in Michigan told him no exceptions could be made.

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