A federal judge in Illinois has awarded $240,000 to two Somalian-American Muslims who were fired for refusing to transport alcohol because of their religious beliefs.
In 2009, Star Transport fired Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale after the two refused to transport alcohol, stating that it violated their religious beliefs. When Star Transport filed the drivers, the company violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC sued Start Transport on behalf of the drivers.
“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.”
Judge James E. Shadid, a chief judge for the U.S. District Court of the Central District of Illinois sided with the EEOC and the drivers. The judge ordered Star Transport to pay the drivers $20,000 each in compensatory damages and $100,000 each in punitive damages. In addition, the judge awarded each approximately $1,500 in back pay.
EEOC trial attorney June 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.”
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane 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.”