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Edited by Christopher Simmons, senior news editor


Sikh businessman, Fleet reach out-of-court settlement over discrimination charge

WASHINGTON, DC - Jan. 30, 2003 /Send2Press Newswire/ -- A leading national Sikh advocacy group and the nation's seventh largest retail financial institution, reached a broad-reaching agreement to ensure nondiscrimination against Sikh American customers and employees and calls for the institution to closely monitor discriminatory practices and improve services to the Sikh community.

Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force and FleetBoston Financial Corp., signed the joint agreement as part of a discrimination lawsuit settlement filed by a Sikh American customer. SMART, Inderjeet Singh Chowdhary, and Fleet Bank have been in negotiations since May last year, when Chowdhary, a Carteret, N.J., businessman filed a lawsuit against Fleet after being denied a CD account. Fleet Bank's settlement of Chowdhary's discrimination claim, which included an undisclosed monetary compensation, coincided with an agreement with SMART.

In the agreement with SMART, Fleet said it "acknowledges that Sikhs are mandated to wear religious articles of faith (including turbans and steel bracelets) and are forbidden from shaving and cutting their hair," among other Sikh religious practices.

Historically, it is the first time any US corporation has publicly stated it will accommodate Sikhs as "full and equal employees and customers."

Highlights of the agreement:

  • Fleet agrees to educate its employees about Sikh Americans.
  • Fleet pledges to promptly investigate discrimination allegations by its customers or employees.
  • Fleet agrees to develop personal, business and financial solutions tailored to address needs of the New Jersey Sikh community.
  • Fleet agrees to continue work with SMART to identify recipients of appropriate event sponsorship and funding programs designed to assist Sikh American charitable and community development organizations.

SMART will provide Fleet with informational material about the Sikh faith, Sikh Americans and their religious practices to be incorporated in Fleet's employee diversity training program. The Washington, DC-based advocacy group will also provide training and education to Fleet employees.

"SMART is satisfied that Fleet has agreed to take these affirmative steps in addressing the Sikh American community's concerns," said SMART's Executive Director, Navtej S. Khalsa. "With this historic agreement as a blueprint, SMART will seek to curb future discrimination of Sikhs by entering into similar agreements with other corporations."


Source of news: Sikh Mediawatch and Resource Task Force

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