For seven years, Walt Disney World mail carrier Gurdit Singh wasn’t allowed to run mail routes in view of park guests because of his appearance. That changed Thursday after Disney responded to pressure from rights groups to stop segregating Singh, a religious Sikh who wore a turban and kept a beard, which Disney originally said violated the company’s “look policy,” Bay News 9 reported.
Disney reversed its decision to keep Singh separated from the other mail carriers, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which submitted a letter to the company on Singh’s behalf. "My hope is that this policy change opens up the door for more Sikhs and other religious minorities to practice their faith freely here at Disney,” Singh said in a statement. "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's not just a Sikh value, that's an American value."
— AndrewBuncombe (@AndrewBuncombe) July 10, 2015
Singh began working at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in 2008. He was assigned to a mail route that kept him out of view of the resorts and theme parks. While other mail carriers rotated their routes every three weeks, the company kept Singh assigned to the same route for seven years.
Disney amended its employee appearance policy in 2012 to allow beards. However, the guidelines restricted beards to no more than a quarter inch in length, according to the Orlando Sentinel. The company’s headwear policy did not specifically address turbans, instead saying non-costumed employees could wear "hats made of natural materials....with a small brim for protection from the sun” and that "reasonable accommodations are provided....for sincerely-held religious beliefs."
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion with roots in South Asia. It is the world’s fifth most practiced religion and its main tenets are service to others and equality. Sikhs are required by their religion to maintain uncut hair that they must cover with a turban, and they must maintain full beards.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Sikh Coalition, which also advocated for Singh, celebrated Disney’s move to allow Singh to keep regular mail routes. "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,” the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement.