The Government Sued on Behalf of Muslim Truck Drivers Fired for Not Delivering Beer-Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
Two Muslim truck drivers who were fired from their jobs for refusing to deliver beer because of their religious beliefs were awarded $240,000 in a lawsuit filed by a government agency.
It’s true that two Muslim truck drivers were awarded $240,000 after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a wrongful termination lawsuit on their behalf.
A jury in Illinois ordered the Star Transport to pay the fired drivers $240,000 in damages in October 2015.
The EEOC announced in May 2013 that it filed a lawsuit against Start Transport for failing to accommodate and wrongfully terminating two Muslim employees who refused to deliver alcohol for religious reasons, according to a press release:
The lawsuit alleged that Star Transport refused to provide two employees with an accommodation of their religious beliefs when it terminated their employment because they refused to deliver alcohol. According to EEOC District Director John P. Rowe, who supervised administrative investigation prior to filing the lawsuit, “Our investigation 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.”
…John Hendrickson, the EEOC Regional Attorney for the Chicago District Office said, “Everyone has a right to observe his or her religious beliefs, and employers don’t get to pick and choose which religions and which religious practices they will accommodate. If an employer can reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious practice without an undue hardship, then it must do so. That is a principle which has been memorialized in federal employment law for almost50 years, and it is why EEOC is in this case.”
U.S. District Court Judge James Shadid found in favor of the EEOC, and a jury awarded the fired truck drivers $240,000 in damages on October 22, 2015, according to an agency press release:
EEOC alleged that in 2009, Star Transport fired Mohamed and Bulshale after they were required to transport alcohol. Both men told Star Transport that they believed doing so would violate their religious beliefs under Islamic law.
EEOC also alleged that Star Transport could have but failed to accommodate the truckers’ religious beliefs, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Star Transport, Inc., No. 13-cv-1240) in U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Peoria in May 2013.
“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 case was litigated by EEOC Trial Attorneys Aaron DeCamp and June Calhoun and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason.
Calhoun said, “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. They suffered real injustice that needed to be addressed. 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 practices. Moreover, they signaled to Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Bulshale that religious freedom is a right for all Americans.”
Smason stated, “We are pleased that the jury recognized that these — and all —employees are entitled to observe and practice their faith, no matter what that might be.”
Bulshale commented, “This case makes me proud to be American.”
The crux of the EEOC case was that Star Transport could have accommodated the fired truck drivers’ religious beliefs, but chose not to. The agency also successfully argued that the company had failed to provide anti-discrimination training that could have prevented the situation, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which reads:
…A description of the qualifications in terms of training and experience relating to equal employment opportunity for the principal and operating officials of each such department, agency, or unit responsible for carrying out the equal employment opportunity program and of the allocation of personnel and resources proposed by such department, agency, or unit to carry out its equal employment opportunity program.
The lawsuit sparked outrage among conservatives who argued that the Muslim truck drivers had been treated differently than Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples because of her religious beliefs.
Eugene Volokh, a columnist for the Washington Post, explained the discrepancy in the treatment of Kim Davis and the Muslim truck drivers in an opinion piece:
First, a technical but important legal point: Title VII expressly excludes elected officials. But Kentucky, like about 20 other states, has a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) statute that requires government agencies to exempt religious objectors from generally applicable laws, unless denying the exemption is the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest. The federal government also has a RFRA, which may apply to federal court orders issued to state elected officials.
The case against Kim Davis argues that as an elected official Davis has a constitutional duty to issue marriage licenses that she cannot get a religious exemption for. The case also argues that Davis had infringed on the gay couple’s constitutional rights by not allowing them to get married. So, in short, because Kim Davis is an elected official with a constitutional responsibility to issue marriage licenses, she doesn’t have the same right to religious objections as private sector employees like the Muslim truck drivers do.