Monday, January 12, 2009

Woman Sues IRS After She is Fired for Wearing Knife to Work


An internal revenue agent has sued the IRS for firing her after she insisted on wearing a ceremonial knife on the job.

The agent, Kawaljeet Kaur Tagore, filed suit against the IRS for discharging her in July 2006. She is a religious Sikh who wears a knife known as a "kirpan." The blunt knife is kept in a curved sheath at her side. Tagore initially began wearing a 9-inch knife when she was formally initiated into the Sikh faith in April 2005. The religion requires adherents to wear five sacred articles of clothing.

After her supervisor objected, she switched it for a 6-inch kirpan with a blunt 3-inch blade. According to her lawsuit, the blade never set off the metal detectors in the Leland Building in Houston, and was not able to inflict bodily harm. However, her supervisor pointed out that federal law prohibits people from carrying blades longer than 2.5 inches in government buildings.

"She was always able to go through the metal detector, and it never beeped," said Harsimran Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, which is helping represent Tagore. "She would come and go several times a day, but after she told her supervisor, he said we have a concern and we need you to not come to work if you wear your kirpan."

Kaur noted that Tagore's office at the IRS contained sharper objects, including scissors, letter openers, box cutters and kitchen knives. The IRS, she claimed, even required Tagore to bring her own scissors and letter opener to the offices of people she was auditing along with a kit of other office supplies, including a fax machine.

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