LIVERMORE -- An Alameda family that practices the Sikh faith claims they were the targets of discrimination by a popular Livermore go-kart track last month and is contemplating a lawsuit after saying they were denied a chance to participate because of their head attire.
The company that owns Boomer's, the Livermore fun center that includes the go-kart track, said that they are motivated by safety and nothing more.
Attorney Manmeet Singh said four cousins from the Singh family, no relation, bought tickets to ride the go-karts on July 28 and waited in line for several minutes. When it was their turn to ride, they were told that their patkas, the turbans central to the Sikh faith, weren't allowed.
"Men are supposed to wear them at all times," Singh said. "There was no policy stating any such thing on the premises where they were. There were posted signs, but nothing about turbans.
"And considering how it was handled by the staff there, we feel that this was a blatant case of racism."
Michele Wischmeyer, the vice president of marketing for Palace Entertainment, Boomer's parent company, said that all of its go-kart tracks have a uniform policy preventing patrons from wearing anything on their heads. She said previous catastrophes at go-kart tracks around the country were caused primarily by loose clothing, long hair, and headgear getting caught in the engine and other equipment.
"We've had a safety policy in place for quite some time at all our parks that prohibits hats, baseball caps, Yarmulkes," Wischmeyer said. "It has nothing to do with a discrimination policy and everything to do with a safety policy."
"The patkas are extremely tight," Singh said. "As part of the faith, they are so tight that they cannot fall off. They don't move."
Singh is a representative of United Sikhs, an international advocacy group that has started an online petition to try to have the company change the policy. He said the family received its money back, but that Boomer's employees argued with them and used subtle racial slurs.
"This is a family that was born and raised in this country," Singh said. "They deserved better than to be treated the way they were treated."
"If they were treated poorly, then I would agree that wasn't right," Wischmeyer said. "But again, the reason they were refused the ride was because of safety and nothing else."