Remember that Muslim airline stewardess (sorry, ladies… flight attendant) who wound up being suspended because she wouldn’t serve alcohol on her flights? The airline bent over backwards trying to make a “reasonable religious accommodation” for her but no answer was good enough. I seem to be detecting a trend here because another case in Illinois found its way to a civil trial and it once again involved employees who objected to performing alcohol related tasks. (Yahoo News)
An Illinois jury awarded $240,000 in damages and back pay to two former truck drivers who claimed religious discrimination when they were fired in 2009 after refusing to make beer deliveries.
A jury was convened to determine damages after US District Court Judge James E. Shadid ruled in favor of Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdkiarim Hassan Bulshale when Star Transport admitted liability in March. The men, both of whom are Somali-American Muslims, were represented by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)…
The jury delivered its verdict in 45 minutes, on Oct. 20. However, the case appears to have picked up national attention when Fox News’ Megyn Kelly invited the channel’s legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano on air Monday, where the two criticized the government-appointed agency for cherry picking cases to serve a political agenda.
It’s true, as noted in the article, that Eugene Volokh looked this case over and saw that the company admitted that drivers frequently switched assignments. With that in mind, perhaps some sort of an arrangement could have been reached to prevent the situation from coming to an impasse. But much like the case of the flight attendant, how much of a burden should be borne by the employer in these cases, particularly in the case of a small business with limited staff? If you’ve got a couple of drivers who want to trade shifts and it doesn’t impact your business, then no harm no foul. But when two of your drivers are refusing every single delivery which involves alcohol that can add up to a lot of switching. The burden falls to the rest of the workers to make sure the “accommodation” is made when they’re just showing up to do their jobs and earn a paycheck.
Napolitano’s complaint on this case is worth a mention also. Your chances of prevailing in court go up considerably when you’ve got the EEOC showing up to go to bat for you rather than just relying on your own attorney. There does seem to be a suspicious pattern of one particular religion managing to get a lot of support from the federal government in cases like this as opposed to some other common faiths. There’s an understandable temptation to compare this case to that of Kim Davis, but it’s not really a parallel. Issuing licenses on behalf of the government is a different matter than delivering beer. But in terms of religious freedom restoration the battle does look awfully one sided these days.
This Illinois case seems to be over. The courts have handed out a payday and the company will need to be more careful in the future. But how many businesses does this apply to around the country? You’re not allowed to ask job applicants about their religion, so what is the small business owner to do when they’re looking to hire a new butcher, for example, only to find out that they refuse to handle pork? The world has turned sideways and it’s becoming increasingly hard to keep up.