Star Transport of Morton, Ill. must pay $243,000 in back pay and compensatory and punitive damages to two Somali-American Muslims who were terminated in 2009 after claiming that their religious scruples prevented them from participating in the shipment of alcohol.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit on behalf of the ex-employees in 2013, alleging that the trucking company made no effort to accommodate their expressed religious beliefs.
“EEOC is proud to support the rights of workers to equal treatment in the workplace without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs or practices,” EEOC General Counsel David Lopez declared after the announcement of the favorable verdict. “This is fundamental to the American principles of religious freedom and tolerance.”
“This is an awesome outcome,” EEOC trial attorney June Calhoun exclaimed. “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.”
We don't begrudge David Lopez, June Calhoun, and their EEOC comrades the opportunity to celebrate a victory, but we do wonder if they've considered the possible implications and ramifications of that victory.
What sort of accommodation should Star Transport have made for employees who refuse to carry cargo the company has contracted to carry? If they could refuse to transport alcohol, could they also refuse any other materials they found objectionable on religious grounds?
Could staunch Christian drivers refuse to carry pornography, contraceptives, etc.? Will the verdict discourage employers from hiring devout worshippers of any faith?
Should the economic impact of the settlement on Star Transport have been a consideration – specifically, the fact that the company has apparently been acquired by another trucking firm and ceased operations in Morton, idling who knows how many former employees?