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Muslim truckers who wouldn't haul alcohol get $240,000 award in bias case

Posted On: Oct. 23, 2015 12:00 AM CST

A federal jury in Peoria, Illinois, has awarded $240,000 to two Muslim truck drivers who refused to transport alcohol because they said it violated their religious beliefs, said the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which brought the case.

The EEOC said in a statement Thursday that Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale were terminated by Morton, Illinois-based Star Transport Inc. in 2009 after they said transporting the alcohol would violate their religious beliefs under Islamic law. The EECO alleged that Star Transport could have accommodated their religious beliefs, and filed suit against the trucking firm in May 2013.

The EEOC said in March that U.S. District Judge James E. Shadid found in favor of the agency after Star Transport admitted liability, and the resulting trial was to determine compensatory and punitive damages and back pay. On Monday, the jury awarded both men $20,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages. Judge Shadid also awarded each $1,500 in back pay.

“This is an awesome outcome,” EEOC trial attorney June Calhoun said in a statement. “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. Moreover, they signaled to Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Bulshale that religious freedom is a right for all Americans.”

Star Transport's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

In July, a federal judge gave the OK for an almost 5-year-old Muslim discrimination case filed by EEOC to proceed against meatpacker Greeley, Colorado-based JBS Swift & Co., charging the meat packing company engaged in wide-scale religious discrimination when it failed to reasonably accommodate its Muslim employees by refusing to allow them to pray according to their religious tenets.