Four Sikh truck drivers in the US have settled a discrimination case against an American trucking giant, which will pay 260,000 dollar in damages for denying them employment after they refused to cut their hair and remove their turbans for the company's drug tests.
The Sikh truck drivers reached a settlement agreement with JB Hunt trucking company following a seven-year federal investigation in which the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found evidence that the company had discriminated against them due to their religious articles of faith, said a release issued by Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organisation.
JB Hunt has agreed to pay 260,000 dollar in damages as well as amend company policies and practices to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws.
The company will be obligated to train its hiring personnel on anti-discrimination laws and submit reports to the EEOC for the next two years about its workplace anti-discrimination efforts.
"I am relieved by this resolution because no one should have to face humiliation because of their religious beliefs," said lead complainant Jagtar Singh Anandpuri. "I have been driving a truck for years, and I know there is nothing about my faith that interferes with my ability to do my job," he said.
Three complainants were denied accommodations after they informed the company that they could not cut their religiously mandated hair for drug testing.
The fourth client was denied an accommodation to the company's demand that he remove his turban while providing a urine sample.
In each case, JB Hunt automatically denied employment, despite the clients' otherwise impeccable job qualifications, the release said.
It added that the US Department of Transportation, which imposes safety standards and regulations on the commercial trucking industry, does not require hair sample tests for employment.
However, alternative forms of drug testing are available, including nail sample tests.
"Our clients repeatedly asked for alternatives within the drug testing regimes that would allow them to follow their religious tenets, and those requests were denied.
Thankfully JB Hunt has finally switched gears and moved into the right lane to comply with federal anti-discrimination law," said the Sikh Coalition's legal director, Harsimran Kaur.
The Sikh Coalition represented the clients in this case since 2008. An estimated 500,000 Sikhs live in the US.
"Employers have a legal and moral duty to honour the religious identity and expression of their workers," said the Stanford Clinic's director, James A Sonne.
"This settlement encourages Sikh Americans everywhere, including at J B Hunt, that they can maintain their articles of faith without sacrificing their livelihood - as is their right, he said.