AutoZone Inc., which maintains dozens of auto parts stores in and around the Philadelphia area, settled a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently. According to the EEOC, AutoZone will pay $75,000 plus attorney’s fees to settle the lawsuit, after Judge William Young ruled that AutoZone had indeed failed to accommodate employee Frank Mahoney Burroughs’ religious needs once he converted to the Sikh religion.
The EEOC often takes legal action against employers when they suspect an employer of unlawful discrimination against an employee.
Among the allegations are that the store refused to allow him to wear a religiously mandated turban and Kara (bracelet) and that employees and managers taunted him with terrorist and Al-Qaeda jokes. The store also failed to intervene when customers referred to him as Osama Bin Laden and made other terrorist jokes at his expense. Burroughs was eventually fired.
Religious discrimination and failure to accommodate the needs of an employee's religion violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers are not allowed to make any employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, pay, or promotion, on the basis of religion. They are also required to make reasonable accommodations for religious needs, such as flexible scheduling for religious observations.
AutoZone will now train its managers and human resources personnel on religious discrimination, as well as distribute the anti-discrimination policy to all of its 65,000 employees across the 4,500 stores nationwide. It will also report to the EEOC its attempts to make religious accommodations and curb religious discrimination in its stores, so others like Mahoney Burroughs will not face the same hostility.
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