US firm settles discrimination suit with ex-Sikh employee

AutoZone,a Fortune 500 firm,had barred the employee who from wearing turban at work.

Written by Agencies | Washington | Published: April 4, 2012 11:54:03 am

American auto parts retailer AutoZone has agreed to pay USD 75,000 to one of its former Sikh employee who was barred from wearing turban at work.

The lawsuit in this regard was filed in September 2010 by US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Boston,according to which managers of AutoZone in Massachusetts prevented Mahoney Burroughs – a newly Sikh convert – from wearing his turban,a religions requirement.

Managers of AutoZone – a Fortune 500 distributor and retailer of automobile parts – made inappropriate remarks such

as asking if he had joined al-Qaeda and if he was a terrorist.

There was likewise no interception when customers made similar terrorist jokes and referred to the man as bin Laden,EEOC said in a statement.

EEOC charged that AutoZone refused to let Burroughs wear a religiously mandated turban and “kara” (a religious bracelet).

Finally,the EEOC alleged that AutoZone terminated him because of his religion and in retaliation for asking for an accommodation and complaining about discrimination.

“It is plainly unlawful as well as cruel and counter- productive to harass employees or co-workers because of their religion,” said Elizabeth Grossman,regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office,which has jurisdiction over Massachusetts.

On January 11,Judge William Young decided in favor of the EEOC on its claim that AutoZone had failed to accommodate Burroughs’ need to wear a turban.

Rather than take the remaining issues to trial,AutoZone entered into a nationwide consent decree,which was entered by Judge Young this week.

“We are pleased that AutoZone,through this decree,has agreed to take the steps necessary to reform its handling of religious accom­modation issues and to ensure that what happened to Mahoney Burroughs will not happen to any other employees,” Markus L Penzel,senior trial attorney for the EEOC,said in a statement.

In addition to USD 75,000 relief,the decree requires AutoZone to adopt a policy prohibiting religious discrimination; train its managers and human resource employees on religious discrimination and the new policy; report to the EEOC on its handling of all requests for religious accommodation and complaints of religious harassment; distribute the new policy; and a notice regarding the consent decree to its 65,000 employees in more than 4,500 US stores.

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