Happily Ever After: Religious Freedom Prevails at Walt Disney World

Photo by mjmrandomness/Flickr

When Gurdit Singh was offered a job in 2008 as a mail carrier at Walt Disney World, he was thrilled. On his first day, however, it quickly became apparent that his new job might not be the path to happily ever after he had imagined.

Singh, a devout Sikh who wears a turban and neatly kept beard, was told by his Disney bosses that he would not be permitted to run mail routes visible to park guests because his religious appearance violated the company’s “Look Policy.” 

But this month, after the ACLU and the Sikh Coalition sent a letter on Mr. Singh’s behalf, Disney finally reversed its decision and granted Mr. Singh a religious accommodation.

Mr. Singh will no longer be kept hidden from public view of Disney visitors because of his turban and beard, and he will be permitted to run all mail routes just like every other mail carrier. The change will dramatically improve his work experience. For seven years, Mr. Singh was restricted to delivering mail to Disney’s corporate offices — a mail route that shielded him from areas where Disney guests congregate. Meanwhile, all of Mr. Singh’s co-workers rotated their routes every three weeks and delivered mail throughout Walt Disney World. 

As we pointed out in our letter to Disney, this segregation relegated Mr. Singh to a mail route that had a greater workload than other routes. It created animosity among his co-workers because he could not assist in operating other routes. And it precluded his opportunities for professional advancement. Because of these discriminatory conditions, Mr. Singh felt singled out, humiliated, and ashamed based on his appearance and his religious practices.

Segregation of employees based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion is a pernicious practice. It not only harms the individual employee, but it also breeds discrimination against all members of minority groups by preventing them from participating fully in the workplace and sending the message that they are less valued as employees and human beings. 

“Look” policies, in particular, tend to negatively impact religious minorities, whose appearance may not reflect what many customers are used to. That’s why the Supreme Court recently ruled in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie and Fitch Stores that employers who have such policies can’t simply turn a blind eye to an employee’s need for a religious accommodation.

Because Disney is a major multinational corporation, its decision to grant Mr. Singh a religious accommodation is an important step forward in achieving workplace equality  for Sikhs and others of minority faiths, and Disney should be applauded.

We hope that Disney will continue to be more welcoming of minority-faith employees and that other companies will follow Disney's shining example. By adopting more inclusive religious accommodation policies, employers like Disney can show that happy endings are not just for fairy tales and that dreams do come true.

 

 

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Pam

I'm glad this is how it turned out, angry that it took a complaint and a really long time to make it happen, and annoyed that it is being phrased as "a religious accommodation". How about Disney just finally decided to not act like jerks? Wearing a turban and a beard does not affect anyone but the turban- and/or beard-wearer. Accommodation is not required.

Michelle Neff

I am amazed, a week gets to wear his turban to express his religious belief even amiubg those that find his dress offensive. So a Baker this religion precludes being part of a gay wedding doesn't get the same consuderation?

Anonymous

You're an ignorant cunt.

Old Curmudgeon

Michelle, what about a Jewish mail carrier wearing a yarmulke to express his religious belief? Or a Catholic with a Rosary around his neck? Or a WASP wearing a Cross?

Anonymous

Judge not, lest ye be judged. See?

Daw

Good he got to keep his job. What next? Will they pull the Aladdin franchise because it might upset the same people? Sir Elton John looks more like Mr. ZIP from the post office and his lifestyle is more horrifying to decency than a polite possibly vegan postman.

Anonymous

I hope Disney doesn't employ more Sikhs or Muslims because they are offensive to my beliefs.

Anonymous

Conservatives don't get the nuanced difference between discrimination on the basis of religion ("look policies") and their desire to descriminate (ostensibly) on the basis of their understanding of the Christian religion.
So, judge not, lest ye be judged. Also, if you are against gay marriage, don't do it yourself but you've got no right to determine how another person lives their life especially if they are doing no harm to you.

Creative Dad

As a Conservative Christian, I choose to live my life loving everyone showing them the grace that God has shown me. I may disagree with with someone's choices, but I won't judge them. Trying to force anyone to conform to your belief system only breeds resentment. That is a 2 way street and eventually someone will be offended… that's life. I disagree with your blanket comments about conservatives, although I understand why you say it.

FRM

Wow, manipulative issue. from one point everybody have their freedom of beliefs, like Kailo Ren, from the other one shouldn't our beliefs stay private? In modern world outer attributes of religon is more showing off than actual point of belief. Why don't you assimilate to world you want to lie in if you don't like the places where your appearance are acceptable?

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