Between 2008 and 2013, four Sikh truck drivers were subjected to religious discrimination by JB Hunt, one of the largest trucking companies in the United States.
As part of the hiring process, the company asked three of these men to cut their hair for drug testing, even though Sikhs are religiously required to maintain uncut hair. The fourth was asked to remove his turban while providing a urine sample, even though Sikhs are religious required to wear a turban. Federal law does not require hair samples for drug tests or removal of religious headwear during urine sampling. In addition, alternative forms of drug testing are available, including nail sampling.
In all four cases, the four Sikh truck drivers refused to violate their religious beliefs and were automatically denied employment by JB Hunt despite being qualified to do their jobs.
The Sikh Coalition represented these men since 2008 and filed discrimination complaints on their behalf with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). While the case was pending, we partnered with and received critical support from the Religious Liberty Clinic at Stanford University Law School. In 2015, the EEOC concluded that JB Hunt discriminated against our clients.
After eight years of dragging its feet, JB Hunt finally agreed to settle the case. The company agreed provide alternative drug tests for religious observers; bring its employment policies and procedures into compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws; train personnel on its legal obligations related to equal employment opportunity; and provide progress reports to the EEOC for two years. In addition, JB Hunt agreed to pay our clients $260,000.
Why It Matters
Although federal law prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace, and requires employers to reasonably accommodate the religious practices of employees and job applicants, companies sometimes ignore or intentionally violate these rules. The courageous Sikh men who challenged JB Hunt not only held the company accountable but also set a positive precedent that ensures that Sikhs in the trucking industry will no longer have to choose between their faith and a job.