Monday, November 23, 2015


I get a lot of crazy emails with far fetched stories that are intended as satire. You know, sort of like the nonsense you see emblazoned across the headlines of the check out counter gossip magazines.

This one claimed that two Muslim truck drivers who had been fired for refusing to deliver beer as required by their employer ended up getting a verdict of $240,000 against the Star Transport Company because of its failure to accommodate their religious beliefs.

A quick check told me that the article was discussed on the Snopes web site, and I carelessly failed to read the whole article. Phony “news” stories really push my buttons, and I fired off an email to the friend who sent me the article, warning him against further publication.

Then, over lunch, chatting with two very smart women – my wife and my daughter – I began to question whether I was right about the Muslim truck driver story.

So, back at the computer, I dug deeper, and stumbled onto this:  It’s a press release by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in which they said on May 29, 2013, that their Chicago office had found Star Transport Company of  Morton, Illinois guilty of religious discrimination against two Muslim truck drivers who refused to deliver beer because their religion opposes drinking alcoholic beverages. And the agency was filing suit on their behalf.

Fast forward to October 22, 2015. Another Press release from the Federal EEOC appears, this time announcing that a federal jury in Peoria, Illinois had awarded the sum of $240,000 in back pay and damages to Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale in the EEOC discrimination lawsuit against Star Transportation.
June Calhoun, one of the federal government’s attorneys had this comment:

"This is an awesome outcome. Star Transport failed to provide any discrimination training to its human resources personnel, which led to catastrophic results for these employees. They suffered real injustice that needed to be addressed. By this verdict, the jury remedied the injustice by sending clear messages to Star Transport and other employers that they will be held accountable for their unlawful employment practices. Moreover, they signaled to Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Bulshale that religious freedom is a right for all Americans."

Pocketing his share of the $240,000, Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale commented, “This case makes me proud to be an American.”

I don’t wish to appear cynical, but I do have to wonder whether the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Office would be equally as energetic on behalf of Agnes Murphy and Mary Jane O’Neill, two employees of the Star Bakery Company who might claim to be unjustly fired for refusing to bake a cake for a same sex wedding.

Or keeping it closer to home, suppose it were two Roman Catholic truck drivers fired for refusal to deliver condoms.

No doubt enlightened employers in a free country like ours ought to show some consideration for the religious beliefs of their employees. Firing people who don’t want to work on Good Friday or Yom Kippur or who want extra time off during Ramadan could well be something State laws might prohibit.

But in a free country, when someone is hired on a job, is it too much to ask that they inquire about the duties they are expected to perform? A Muslim waiter or bar tender ought to know what the job entails, and shouldn’t expect religious accommodation, just as an Evangelical Christian who applies for work at Planned Parenthood should know what she is getting into.

My embarrassment about this story stemmed from the fact that Snopes claimed that the report was partly false. According to Snopes, the story claimed that the White House was complicit in prosecuting the case, and that, according to Snopes, was not true.

Still, politics being what they are, one does wonder how far up the totem pole the decision making goes. And it was pretty obvious from the statement of lawyer Calhoun that the EEOC was keenly aware of the political ramifications of the judgment not only for other employers, but also for folks who need a little encouragement to be proud of their American citizenship.

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