Madison - St. Clair Record

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EEOC boasts of victory in $243K jury verdict awarded to Somalian-American Muslims; Truckers had been fired for refusing to transport alcohol

By Hanna Nakano | Nov 12, 2015

A trucking company has been ordered to pay $243,000 to two Somalian-American Muslims who were fired for refusing to ship alcohol, because it went against their religious beliefs. 

Jurors at federal court in the Central District of Illinois reached their decision after deliberating 45 minutes on Oct. 20, following a one day trial. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a case against Star Transport, the trucking company that fired Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale. 

According to an EEOC press release, the men were fired in 2009; the case was filed on their behalf in 2013.

Star Transport admitted liability in March, according to the EEOC. This trial was to determine damages and back pay.

Each man was awarded $20,000 in compensatory damages, $100,000 in punitive damages and $1,500 in back pay, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC argued that Star Transport could have worked with the men to accommodate their religious beliefs but didn’t.

The Madison County Record reached out to the EEOC to see how much this case cost to pursue. A spokesperson said there was no way to determine that.

"EEOC cannot assign a cost figure to an individual case since the agency does not keep track of the time spent by each attorney, paralegal and other support staff on each of our cases," the spokesperson said in an email. 

In the press release, EEOC general counsel David Lopez stated, "EEOC is proud to support the rights of workers to equal treatment in the workplace without having to sacrifice their religious beliefs or practices.This is fundamental to the American principles of religious freedom and tolerance."

EEOC trial attorney June Calhoun said the outcome was “awesome.”

“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," Calhoun stated. "Moreover, they signaled to Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Bulshale that religious freedom is a right for all Americans.”

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