NRI Sikh woman wins NY lawsuit against NWL for discrimination


NRI Sikh woman wins NY lawsuit

November 18, 2008 – A Sikh woman who suffered racial, religious and sexual harassment on the job has obtained justice by standing up to her employer. In a settlement agreement, National Wholesale Liquidators (NWL), Mrs. Sukhbir Kaur’s former employer, agreed to make changes to their employment policies and pay money damages to nine victims of harassment, including Mrs. Kaur.

The settlement sends a strong message to private employers that discrimination against Sikhs is illegal and will be harshly punished.

Harassed On Account of Her Faith

Mrs. Kaur’s lawsuit alleged that in 2004 an NWL store manager harassed Mrs. Kaur because she was a Sikh, a woman, and Indian. The manager told her to remove her turban because she “would appear sexier without it.”  When she refused the manager’s repeated advances, he told her that she was not permitted to use the bathroom and would have to wear a diaper to work.  NWL failed to take appropriate action to address and correct the harassment, even after Mrs. Kaur complained.  Instead, she was fired.

Mrs. Kaur’s matter was first brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) attention in July 2005, when the Sikh Coalition filed a charge of discrimination on her behalf with the agency. The EEOC subsequently conducted an investigation and found that many South Asian workers at NWL’s Long Island City store in Queens, NY were being harassed. They endured constant taunts about their national origin and religion, such as “All Indians are nasty,” “Sikhs are thieves,”or “I’m tired of seeing old Indian faces all the time.”

The Sikh Coalition Takes On the Case

Mrs. Kaur and the EEOC attempted to reach a voluntary settlement with NWL once the charges were filed.  When these efforts failed, the EEOC and the Sikh Coalition both filed lawsuits in 2007. Mrs. Kaur was co-represented by the Sikh Coalition and attorney Ravinder Singh Bhalla.

On October 23, 2008, NWL settled the case with a consent decree filed in court. Under the agreement, NWL must do two things:

  1. Provide monetary damages of $255,000 to the nine victims of harassment, including Mrs. Kaur;
  2. Make changes to its workplace and policies that would rid the company of discrimination. These changes include adoption of an anti-discrimination policy and complaint procedure approved by the EEOC, workplace posters about discrimination, and anti-discrimination training.

The EEOC will monitor NWL’s obligations under the consent decree for three years.

“[T]he EEOC hopes this settlement encourages employers to take steps to educate their managers and employees: harassing employees based on national origin, sex or religion is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Margaret A.Malloy, the agency’s lead attorney on the case.

A Real Hero

The Sikh Coalition congratulates Mrs. Kaur on the resolution of the lawsuit and commends her for standing up for her rights.  “Despite being subject to such degrading, discriminatory treatment, Sukhbir Kaur fought back.  Because of her courage, NWL is a better workplace for all of its employees.  I hope that her story will inspire others to stand up when their rights are violated.  And, I hope it equally serves as a warning to employers who tolerate discrimination in their workplace,” said Harsimran Kaur, Legal Director of the Sikh Coalition.

The Sikh Coalition would like to thank attorney Ravinder Singh Bhalla and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, particularly attorney Margaret A. Malloy, for their tireless work on the case.

[Update:  As some of you may know, last week NWL filed for bankruptcy.  The effect of the bankruptcy on the monetary aspect of the settlement is as yet unclear. However, the provisions for policy changes that correct the workplace discrimination remain in effect.]


The Sikh Coalition is a community-based organization that works towards the realization of civil and human rights for all people. The Coalition serves as a resource on Sikhs and Sikh concerns for governments, organizations and individuals.

The Sikh Coalition relies on your financial support to sustain its initiatives and broaden its services. In addition to supporting the Sikh Coalition directly, we encourage you to use matching donation programs offered by many employers. The Sikh Coalition is a 501c (3) non-profit organization. Thank you for your support.

AFTER a legal battle lasting more than three years, a Sikh woman, who faced racial, religious and sexual harassment at her workplace, has forced her employer to not only pay her compensation, but also make changes in its employment policies.

“ The settlement reached between Sukhbir Kaur and her employer, National Wholesale Liquidators ( NWL), sends a strong message to private employers that discrimination against Sikhs is illegal and will be harshly punished,” non- profit organisation Sikh Coalition said in a statement on Wednesday.

In her lawsuit filed with the help of Sikh Coalition, Sukhbir had alleged that in 2004, a store manager of the NWL had harassed her because she was a Sikh, a woman, and an Indian.

She alleged the manager told her to remove her turban because she “ would appear sexier without it”. Sukhbir also said she was harassed by the manager, when she spurned his repeated advances.

Despite her complaints, NWL failed to take appropriate action to address and correct the harassment. Instead, she was fired. Sukhbir then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which conducted an investigation in 2005. The investigation revealed that many South Asian workers at NWL’s Long Island City store in Queens, New York were being harassed. Having failed to persuade the NWL to reach a voluntary settlement, both the commission and Sikh Coalition finally filed a lawsuit against it.

The case was finally settled late last month with a consent decree filed in the court.

Under this settlement, NWL agreed to pay compensation of nearly Rs 13 million to the nine victims of harassment, including Sukhbir. It also agreed to make changes to its workplace and policies that would rid the company of discrimination.

Prominent among these changes include adoption of an anti- discrimination policy and complaint procedure approved by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, workplace posters about discrimination, and antidiscrimination training.

“ Because of Sukhbir’s courage, NWL is a better workplace for all of its employees,” said Harsimran Kaur, legal director of Sikh Coalition.

IANS

Maintanance:Estranged hubby will have to foot wife’s med bills: SC


Maintenance:Estranged hubby will have to foot wife’s med bills: SC

Follows Another Judgment Expanding Meaning Of ‘Maintenance’

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN


New Delhi: Cost of estrangement continues to mount for husbands — who are mandated by law to pay the wife maintenance — with the Supreme Court churning out judgments giving a very expansive meaning to the word ‘maintenance’.

Soon after its ruling that maintenance for estranged wife included a house at par with the one in which the husband lived, the court has now said that he also has to reimburse her medical expenses.

These two rulings will surely make men think twice before seeking separation from wives, especially after the SC had made registration of marriages mandatory under Special Marriage Act, 1954, for all couples irrespective of their religion.

The recent judgment came on a petition filed by one Rajesh Burman, who had married Mithul Chatterjee on January 26, 2000, in Kolkata. The couple started living in Mumbai from February 25, 2001. But differences arose between the two within months. It led to a scuffle on June 16, 2001, in which Mithul got injured.

She filed a petition in an Alipore court seeking dissolution of marriage as well as reimbursement of the money spent by her father in the treatment of her injuries, which required two surgeries.

The husband had moved the apex court challenging an order of the Calcutta High Court, which had upheld the trial court decision asking him to reimburse the medical expenses. The husband resisted it, saying he was already paying maintenance to her.

Dismissing his appeal, the apex court said, “Under the Act, it is clear that a wife is entitled to maintenance and support.” Expanding the meaning of the two terms — ‘maintenance’ and ‘support’ — a Bench comprising Justices C K Thakker and D K Jain, in a judgment earlier this month, agreed with the estranged wife’s counsel to say that they included her medical expenses, which was a little over Rs 2 lakh.

“The terms are very wide so as to include medical expenses and both the courts were right in granting medical reimbursement,” the Bench said. “We see no infirmity in the decision or reasoning of the courts below which calls for our interference in exercise of discretionary and equitable jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution. The appeal in our view has no substance and must be dismissed,” it said.

When the husband, after losing the case, pleaded for permission to reimburse her medical expenses in instalments, the apex court agreed and asked him to pay the total sum by December 31, 2008.

RWAs: Why educated Middle class should vote.


“Simple solutions 2 complex problem”

A.K.Mehta B. Com, FCA

Chairman

Federation of all (37) RWA’s of Vasant Kunj,


1411, D-1, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110070

Ph. 011-26130291, Mob. 98-102-01422

EDUCATED CLASS/MIDDLE CLASSCan it become a Vote Bank

One always found this class complaining that the system is bad, Politicians are corrupt, and there is no need to vote etc.etc. At the same time they are the worst effected by the present political system. To know how please read on:-

1)TAXES- Present highest income tax slab is 30% +10% S.C+ 3% education cess. This totals upto 34%.Besides this what ever we spend/consume it includes VAT, service tax, excise duty, octroi, custom duty etc. Then there is fringe benefit tax, wealth tax, Gift Tax, Stamp Duty, Property Tax, Road Tax, Vehicle Registration Fee etc. It doesn’t stop here. When you drive you have to pay toll tax.

If you draw your yearly accounts maybe you’ll find that almost 55% of yours earnings goes in taxes. Your hardships do not end here. Education and Medical which was almost free up to early 80’s has become so much expensive in last 25-30 years. The amount spent by my parents in 18 years of my education, even if multiplied by 6 for inflation factor, is today less than the annual fee of one school going child. Up to early 80s it was still possible to get medical treatment at govt. hospitals .Then came nursing home after that expensive private hospital.

Even after collecting so many taxes the government doesn’t provide any social security benefits. On the other hand even pensioners have also to pay the present taxes. In developed countries 12 to 14 years of education is free, school students even get pocket allowance, there is unemployment allowance, medical is free, old age pension is provided etc. Etc. Chanakya in his arthshastra has suggested that the raja (prashashak) should collect tax from its praja in the same way as bhanwara extracts ras (nectar) out of a flower. Today the flower has gone along with the stem and if it is not stopped one day the complete plant shall be uprooted.

2) LAW AND ORDER– It affect this class the most. Have you ever heard a politician’s or a rich man house been burgled or his car stolen or his wife/ daughter’s Chain snatched. All these crime happen to educated / middle class.

3) SYSTEM- The present system that is the democracy is not bad; rather I think it is the best. Think about dictatorship, military rule or kingdom (Rajtantra), you get shivers. So where the fault lies? I think it is in us. We can drive this present system to correct path. We can’t remain indifferent anymore lest we shall be wiped out.

4) Vote Bank– What is this? It is not that a particular group/ community votes to a particular party but it is that a particular group/ community vote in maximum numbers and as a result all political parties woes them. All the parties are ready to dole out maximum benefit to such groups. Educated class/ Middle class are the largest group if they consider themselves so irrespective of caste, creed and religion. In years to come it shall account for almost 50% of the voters. It takes maximum 30 minutes to vote and you have to exercise this right only 3 times in 5 years( Lok Sabha, Assembly and Municipal Elections) What is required is 90 minutes of time in 5 years. This is probably the simplest and biggest tool in our hand in the democratic system. The day this class shall do even 60% voting you will find things changed for our betterment.

APPEAL– In case you agree with above, then, may I request you all to:-

a) Vote in maximum in coming assemble election and keep on doing so in all the elections to come

b) Spread this message to maximum number of people. Rather pursue others also to vote.

c) Corporate/corporate bosses/ People connected with media may give it wider publicity as they also fall in this class. If taxes are reduced Social benefits extended, and Education becomes free, then all of us shall be benefited.

With Warm Regards,

(A.K. Mehta)

ARMY: HC says Reinstate personnel sacked on health grounds


Reinstate personnel sacked on health grounds: HC to Army

TIMES NEWS NETWORK


New Delhi: Thousands of army personnel facing the axe on medical grounds, including many who have already lost their jobs, on Thursday got a breather from the Delhi high court which quashed an order issued by the Army headquarters for their termination from service without first subjecting them to a medical board.

The court’s verdict means now the Indian Army will have to screen them through a specially constituted Invalidating Medical Board before it finds them unfit for active duty and discharges them.

The court also directed the Chief of Army Staff to reinstate those Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) who were already discharged and not to terminate any personnel without constituting an ‘‘Invalidating Board.’’

In April 2007, a letter was issued by the Army Headquarters in which it was stated that to reduce the surplus manpower in the force, the Army has reviewed its policy on Management of Low Medical Category (LMC) for personnel below officers’ rank.
In October last year, the

Army had identified 26,706 personnel to discharge them from service on low medical ground. The termination started in a phased manner since then.

Citing a recent Supreme Court ruling that an army personnel like JCO cannot be terminated from service on medical ground without constituting an ‘‘Invalidating Board’’, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul quashed the Army order and allowed the pleas of more than 300 personnel.

Directing the Army to initiate the process for taking the personnel back, the court asked Army to give wide publicity about the personnel’s reinstatement.
Justice Kaul, however, made it clear that those personnel who have taken their retirement benefits, were to refund the money to Army before its considers their plea for reinstatement within a month time.

In a batch of petitions, filed through their counsel Abhik Kumar, Sidharth Shankar Ray and S M Dalal, the petitioners alleged that the Army, in violation of its own rules and regulations for the Medical Services of Armed Forces, has selected the personnel to discharge them from their service.

NRI: Sid Agarwal : suspect assailant Jing Hua Wu had work, money problems


Extracts from Mercury News

911 calls offer glimpse of SiPort tragedy; suspect had work, money problems

Posted: 11/20/2008 01:03:54 PM PST

Jing Hua Wu with his twin sons who are now 6 years old Wu has been… ( Courtesy of the Wu family )


The first caller from outside a small chip-making company told a Santa Clara police dispatcher that he saw the victims “shot in the head.”

Dispatcher: Sir, do you know where they’re at?

Caller: They’re shot in the head.

Dispatcher: In the head?

Caller: Yeah. Yes. The head.

Dispatcher: Are you sure the suspect has left the building?

Caller: Yes.

That exchange was part of three audio files released Thursday by the Santa Clara Police Department following a California Public Records Act request by the Mercury News. The calls dispatchers received came moments after three executives were killed a week ago, police say, by Jing “Jerry” Hua Wu, an engineer fired that same day for “poor performance.”

The raw exchanges between employees to dispatchers offer a brief, rare glimpse into the tragedy at SiPort, a company on Scott Boulevard that makes chips for mobile devices. While the motive for the violence is not known, it appears Wu was having both trouble at work and substantial problems with his flagging personal finances.

His attorneys in the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office refuse to disclose whether his declining fortunes played a motive in the shootings. But a review of his investments by the Mercury News — he owns 17 properties in three states — indicates that in the months before the killings, the housing bubble burst and many of Wu’s once-promising real estate investments tanked.

Whatever was troubling the married father of three, on Nov. 14, it all came to a head.

Police say all three managers had agreed to meet with Wu in a conference room on that Friday afternoon — a few hours after he was fired. Police say he shot them all, left the scene and was arrested the following day without incident. Wu, who has declined media interviews, was arraigned Wednesday on murder charges without entering a plea.

On the dispatch recordings, two employees calling from SiPort identify the shooter right away and say they saw the 47-year-old Wu with a gun. They told dispatchers Wu fled the building wearing a baseball cap and beige clothing and drove off.

The first call came in at 3:52 p.m. and the longest call was 3 minutes and 40 seconds. When police arrived, they found three managers dead inside: Marilyn Lewis, 67, of San Jose, head of human resources; Brian Pugh, 47, of Los Altos, vice president of operations; and Sid Agrawal, 56, of Fremont, chief executive and co-founder.

While speculation centers on Wu’s employment problems at SiPort, property records show he also was facing significant financial woes due to the real estate downturn. While he looked prosperous on paper, with properties in California, Arkansas and Washington, several are worth less than he paid for them. And records also indicate that he also is tapping heavily into the equity in his Mountain View home.

It appears that Wu qualifies for a taxpayer-funded legal defense for several reasons. His investments are underwater; he is in jail without bail until the trial; and he is not earning a wage. A private attorney in a triple homicide would typically cost 500,000 to $750,000.

Wu invested in two houses in comfortable suburban neighborhoods of Vancouver, Wash., with good schools in 2005 and 2007 — near the top of the then-booming market, said Vancouver Realtor Lisa Costa. At the time, property in the city was appreciating rapidly, with equity in some locations ranging from 10 to 25 percent.

But when the bubble burst, Wu was caught holding the properties.

For instance, Wu bought one of the houses — on Northeast 145th Street — for $280,426 in May 2007. Its assessed value quickly shot up to $308,000, Costa said. But the latest assessment puts its value at only $276,000 — less than Wu paid 18 months ago.

“I’m sure when he bought it, he thought he was going to make money,” Costa said, “but the market shifted virtually overnight.”

Wu also owes more than the current value of two houses he bought before the crash in an affluent gated retirement community in Hot Springs, Ark., according to Realtor Keitha Turner of Village Pro.

Both houses in Hot Springs Village are now worth less than when he bought them in 2000 and 2005, despite the considerable amenities of the gated community, including nine golf courses and 11 lakes in the heart of the scenic Ouachita Mountains.

He bought one house in 2000 for $198,000; the other in 2005 for $215,000. “If you could even find a buyer, with so many houses in the Village for sale,” Turner said, “his would probably go for $10,000 to $20,000 less than he paid.”

The crimes Wu is accused of have reverberated there. One of Wu’s renters demanded Saturday that Turner change the locks on Wu’s property, she said, for fear the test engineer would show up and kill them.

In fact, Wu has been locked inside the mental health ward of the main county jail since his arrest. In another of the 911 calls, a SiPort employee, said he knew who had done the shootings.

Caller: I heard shots fired and I saw a gun. The guy’s name is Jing, I don’t know his last name, (pause) Wu.

The caller also talks about what happened moments before the gun went off. “He was in an argument with two employees.”

When the dispatcher asks if the employees know who the shooter is, the caller doesn’t hesitate.

The answer is: Yes.