An Illinois jury awarded two Somali-American Muslims $240,000 after the men were fired from their jobs as truckers for refusing to haul alcohol because it violated their religious beliefs.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit in federal court on behalf of the two drivers against their former employer, Star Transport. The verdict was handed down on Oct. 20.
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, according to a press release issued by the EEOC.
The resulting trial was to determine compensatory and punitive damages and back pay. The jury awarded Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale $20,000 each in compensatory damages and $100,000 each in punitive damages. Judge Shadid awarded each approximately $1,500 in back pay.
The two men were fired from Star Transport in 2009 after they refused to transport alcohol, believing that to do so would violate their religious beliefs under Islamic law. The EEOC lawsuit alleged that Star “could have but failed to accommodate the truckers’ religious beliefs, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
EEOC trial attorney June Calhoun called the verdict “an awesome outcome,” according to the release.
“Star Transport failed to provide any discrimination training to its human resources personnel, which led to catastrophic results for these employees,” Calhoun stated in the release. “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.”
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