The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission made headlines earlier this week after announcing that it had finally reached a settlement in a discrimination case spanning seven years that was being closely monitored by legal experts across the nation.
The case in question was filed by the EEOC on behalf of four Sikh truck drivers against the national shipping giant J.B. Hunt, which has a major presence on the East Coast, including here in New Jersey.
According to the complaint, three of the Sikh drivers applied for work with J.B. Hunt in California and were eventually extended offers based on their good employment history. Problems arose, however, and these job offers were ultimately rescinded when the three men requested exemptions for pre-employment drug tests.
Specifically, the men asked for exemptions, as the company's preferred method of drug testing, via hair samples, would require them to violate a major tenet of Sikhism, which dictates that hair must remain unshorn.
As for the fourth Sikh driver, the complaint alleged that his employment offer was rescinded after informing J.B. Hunt that he could not remove his turban when asked to provide a urine sample, as this too would violate a major tenet of the faith.
Under the terms of the settlement, J.B. Hunt agreed to pay the four drivers $260,000 to cover lost wages, alter practices to ensure compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws, retain hiring personnel, submit progress reports to the EEOC for two years and allow the four men to reapply for work as truckers.
It is worth noting that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees drug testing of truckers, does not mandate hair testing as a prerequisite for employment and outlines several other acceptable forms of testing.
Here's hoping that this decision results in meaningful change across all sectors and curtails the unfortunate prevalence of religious discrimination.
If you have reason to believe that you've been victimized by any sort of illegal discrimination in the workplace, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional to learn more about your rights as soon as possible.