A federal court awarded $240,000 to two former drivers, Somalian-American Muslims whose religious beliefs were violated by an Illinois trucking company.
According to the Peoria Journal Star, Morton, Ill.-based Star Transport Inc. was sued in 2013 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The men, Mahad Abass Mohamed (formerly known as Mahad Aden) and Abdikarim Hassan Bulshale (formerly known as Abdikarim Ismail), had refused to deliver alcohol for the carrier, saying it was against their religious values as practicing Muslims. They were fired.
Failure to accommodate the religious beliefs of employees, when this can be done without undue hardship, violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion.
The EEOC said its investigation before filing the suit revealed that Star could have readily avoided assigning these employees to alcohol delivery without any undue hardship, "but chose to force the issue despite the employees' Islamic religion."
Judge James E. Shadid, the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois, found in favor of EEOC after Star Transport admitted liability in March 2015. The resulting trial was to determine compensatory and punitive damages and back pay. The jury awarded Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale $20,000 each in compensatory damages and $100,000 each in punitive damages. Judge Shadid awarded each approximately $1,500 in back pay.
“This is an awesome outcome. Star Transport failed to provide any discrimination training to its human resources personnel, which led to catastrophic results for these employees,” said one of the EEOC’s attorneys, June Calhoun, in a statement.
The Journal Star reported that in 2009, the personnel manager and the human resources manager at the carrier didn’t have any formalized training from Star on how to deal with civil and religious rights. One of the administrators hadn’t heard of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars such discrimination, according to the court file.
However, it is unclear whether the two men actually will receive any money, the paper notes. Star Transport went out of business earlier this year.