Muslim Truck Drivers Get Award in Religious Discrimination Suit

CHICAGO, IL — A U.S. federal jury in Peoria, IL has awarded more than US$240,000 to two Somalian-American Muslims who were fired from their jobs as truck drivers at Star Transport, when they refused to transport alcohol because it violated their religious beliefs.

The case was brought on their behalf by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces laws in the country prohibiting employment discrimination.

The trial started on Oct. 19, and the jury returned its verdict the next day after 45 minutes of deliberation.

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 (formerly known as Mahad Aden) and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale (formerly known as Abdikarim Ismail) $20,000 each in compensatory damages and $100,000 each in punitive damages. Judge Shadid awarded each approximately $1,500 in back pay.

EEOC alleged 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.

The U.S. agency also alleged that Star Transport could have, but failed to accommodate the truckers’ religious beliefs, as required under the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“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.”

“Star Transport failed to provide any discrimination training to its human resources personnel, which led to catastrophic results for these employees,” said June Calhoun, an EEOC attorney who litigated the case. “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”

She also said the decision signals religious freedom is a right for all Americans.

“This case makes me proud to be American,” Bulshale said.

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