Sikh Coalition Client Harassed by Managers and Customers, Barred From Wearing Turban, then Fired, According to Federal Government Suit
(Boston, MA) September 29, 2010 - The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against AutoZone, Inc
., a national automobile parts store, for discriminating against a Sikh employee. The Sikh Coalition filed a discrimination complaint
on behalf of the Sikh employee -- Frank Mahoney Burroughs -- which led to the government's lawsuit. The Coalition will continue to represent the employee in the federal lawsuit.
The EEOC lawsuit states that AutoZone violated federal law by verbally insulting and humiliating the employee after he adopted Sikhism, by refusing to let him wear a turban, and by firing him after he complained about the discrimination. For example, a manager asked Mahoney Burroughs if he was a terrorist and had joined Al-Qaeda and whether he intended to blow up the store. In addition, AutoZone failed to intervene when customers referred to Mahoney Burroughs as "Bin Laden" and made terrorist jokes.
This lawsuit makes clear that the federal government is taking employment discrimination against the Sikh community seriously. The government only files lawsuits in less than half of one percent of all cases
brought to its attention.
"We are thankful for the EEOC's lawsuit," said Sandeep Kaur, staff attorney, Sikh Coalition. "I hope this lawsuit makes it clear that the Sikh community will not allow Sikhs to be harassed in the workplace. We will file complaints, partner with government agencies, and hold employers accountable in court when necessary. We will fight to ensure that Sikh Americans enjoy equal employment opportunity."
Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., the director of the EEOC's New York District Office, which has jurisdiction over Massachusetts, said, "Employers are obligated to accommodate the religious beliefs of employees unless the accommodation poses an undue hardship. The EEOC will continue to take swift action to protect employees from religious discrimination."
The Sikh Coalition thanks the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights in Boston
, in particular, Staff Attorney Laura Maslow-Armand, for their partnership in this case.
Protect Yourself from Religious Discrimination in the Workplace
As always, the 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: