The EEOC filed a law suit against AutoZone in September 2010, alleging that AutoZone violated federal law when it subjected Frank Mahoney Burroughs, an employee who had converted to the Sikh religion, to harassment and refused to accommodate his religious need to wear a turban.
According to the suit, AutoZone managers at its Massachusetts location harassed Mahoney Burroughs by disparaging his religion, asking if he had joined Al-Qaeda and whether he was a terrorist. Further, the company failed to intervene when customers referred to him as “Bin Laden” and made terrorist jokes. Moreover, AutoZone refused to let Mahoney 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.
Such religious discrimination and harassment are all violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which also protects against retaliation against employees who asserts their Title VII rights.
On Jan. 11, Judge William Young decided in favor of the EEOC on its claim that AutoZone had failed to accommodate Mahoney Burroughs’ need to wear a turban. The company will pay $75,000 plus attorneys’ fees and provide other nationwide relief to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced today. Further, in addition to the monetary 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 U.S. stores.
“Employers must be vigilant in watching out for such misconduct and resolute in stopping it if they find it” said Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. If you have any complaints of religious discrimination or harassment, you can contact the Harman Firm.