A Sikh employee has won a religious discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, AutoZone, who harassed and then fired him for using Sikh articles of faith.
A federal court has ordered the Fortune 500 auto parts company to pay Frank MahoneyBurroughs, $75,000 in damages plus attorneys’ fees. A religious charity, The Sikh Coalition, represented MahoneyBurroughs in the case, providing over two years of advocacy and support.
Judge William Young, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, found that AutoZone violated federal law by barring MahoneyBurroughs, a sales associate, from wearing his dastaar and kara (bracelet) to work. Judge Young also found that AutoZone had unlawfully required him to “prove” his Sikh faith by making unfair requests for documentation of his religious practices.
Describing the decision as “a victory for all religious minorities and a lesson for all Fortune 500 companies, Sikh Coalition’s staff attorney, Sandeep Kaur, says, “You cannot hide behind the law when you discriminate against employees because of the way they look.”
The court has also asked the auto firm to post notices reporting the lawsuit and settlement in its stores in the Northeast, and distribute electronic notices of the lawsuit to 4800 stores nationwide.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice was invited to co-counsel on the case. “This was the first purely religious discrimination case handled by the Lawyers’ Committee and we are proud of its positive outcome,” says Laura Maslow-Armand, Co-Counsel, and Attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee.
MahoneyBurroughs hopes that “the case improves the chances of the next Sikh who is just trying to work and feed himself and his family”.
Changing Policy for Everyone
AutoZone agreed to the following:
A general prohibition on religious discrimination in all 4,800 stores nationwide
Creation of a written religious accommodation policy
Anti-discrimination training to critical employees