Star Transport, Inc., a trucking company based in Morton, IL, was charged with violating federal law by failing to accommodate two employees because of their religion, Islam, and discharging them, according to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit filed on May 29.
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.
“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,” according to EEOC District Director John P. Rowe, who supervised administrative investigation prior to filing the lawsuit.
The EEOC charges that 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 filed suit in the District Court for the Central District of Illinois in Peoria after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its statutory conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the fired truck drivers and an order barring future discrimination and other relief.
“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,” John Hendrickson, the EEOC Regional Attorney for the Chicago District Office said. “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 almost 50 years, and it is why EEOC is in this case.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.