April 11, 2012 (Boston) – A Sikh employee, Frank MahoneyBurroughs, scored a significant victory in a religious discrimination lawsuit against his former employer, AutoZone, who harassed and then fired him for adopting the Sikh articles of faith. In addition to defeating the Fortune 500 auto parts company on a religious accommodation claim, Mr. MahoneyBurroughs, as part of a settlement agreement, will receive $75,000 in damages plus attorneys’ fees. The Sikh Coalition’s Legal team represented Mr. MahoneyBurroughs, providing over two years of dedicated 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 Mr. MahoneyBurroughs, a sales associate, from wearing his dastaar and kara 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.
“This is a victory for all religious minorities and a lesson for all Fortune 500 companies - you cannot hide behind the law when you discriminate against employees because of the way they look,” said Staff Attorney, Sandeep Kaur, of the Sikh Coalition.
Changing Policy for Everyone
In addition to monetary damages, 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
Posting of physical notices reporting the lawsuit and settlement in stores in the Northeast
Distribution of electronic notices of the lawsuit to all stores nationwide
"The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice extends appreciation to the Sikh Coalition for developing the case, for persuading the EEOC to represent Frank MahoneyBurroughs, and for inviting us to co-counsel. This was the first purely religious discrimination case handled by the Lawyers’ Committee and we are proud of its positive outcome.” – Laura Maslow-Armand, Co-Counsel, and Attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice.
For Mr. MahoneyBurroughs, he hopes that “the case improves the chances of the next Sikh who is just trying to work and feed himself and his family".
The Sikh Coalition would like to thank our dedicated co-counsel, Laura Maslow-Armand at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice in Boston and David S. Godkin at Birnbaum & Godkin, LLP, who provided significant pro bono support. We also thank our courageous client and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who also filed suit against AutoZone after receiving the Sikh Coalition’s complaint.
For More Information on Frank MahoneyBurrough’s Case and the EEOC’s Findings - U.S. Government Finds AutoZone Humiliated and Harassed Sikh Employee
Read EEOC’S Press Release - AutoZone to Pay $75,000 to Settle EEOC Religious Discrimination Lawsuit
Media Coverage on the Lawsuit - AutoZone Settles Religious Discrimination Suit With Winthrop Man
Protect Yourself from Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
As always, the Sikh Coalition calls on all Sikhs to stand up for their rights and fearlessly maintain their articles of faith.
Information explaining your rights in the workplace:
If you believe that you have been discriminated against or subject to bias based upon your religious beliefs or Sikh identity, and would like to request legal assistance from the Sikh Coalition, please complete our online intake form.
If you are not able to complete the form online, please call Staff Attorney, Gurjot Kaur at (212) 655-3095 ext. 85.