A US jury awarded $240,000 in damages and back pay to two Muslim truck drivers who claimed religious discrimination when they were fired from an Illinois trucking company in 2009 because they refused to deliver beers.
A judge decided that Morton-based Star Transport Inc violated the religious belief of two men; Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdikarim Hassan Bulshale.
The jury awarded Mohamed and Bulshale $20,000 each in compensatory damages and $100,000 each in punitive damages. Also, Chief US District Judge James Shadid awarded each about $1,500 in back pay.
The men, both of whom are Somali-American Muslims were represented by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC won the case on behalf of the Obama administration.
“EEOC is proud to support the rights of workers to equal treatment in the workplace without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs or practices,” said EEOC General Counsel David Lopez.
“This is fundamental to the American principles of religious freedom and tolerance.”
The jury delivered its verdict in 45 minutes on October 20 a day after the trial started, AP reported.
The EEOC said the men were sacked in 2009 after they refused to deliver alcohol because it was against their religious values as practising Muslims.
The lawsuit said the company did not provide them “with a reasonable accommodation” and fired them “because of their religion.”
According to The Civil Rights Act of 1964, civil rights legislation in the United States that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, employers must make accommodations for employee’s religious beliefs.
Chief US District Judge James Shadid had ruled in favour of the commission in March, after the company admitted liability.
June Calhoun, one of the commission’s attorneys on the case, said that human resources staff should have taken discrimination training to be provided by the company which caused “catastrophic results” for the two men.
“They suffered real injustice that needed to be addressed,” Calhoun said in a statement.
“By this verdict, the jury remedied the injustice by sending clear messages to Star Transport and other employers that they will be held accountable for their unlawful employment practise.”
Court records indicated that the commission had tried to be in contact with Star Transport on the issue a year before the lawsuit started.
In June, The US Supreme Court ruled that religious freedom right of a Muslim woman Samantha Elauf was violated when her job application at clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch was denied because of the similar reason that she was wearing a headscarf.