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J.B. Hunt reaches $260k settlement with 4 Sikh truckers following alleged religious discrimination


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Commercial Carrier Journal (CCJ)  /  November 17, 2016

Carrier giant J.B. Hunt has reached a $260,000 settlement with four Sikh truckers who claim the carrier discriminated them based on their religious beliefs when they refused to comply with Hunt’s pre-employment hair-sample drug testing program.

One of the five articles of faith for Sikhs is maintaining uncut hair, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, who announced the settlement Nov. 15.

The EEOC argues J.B. Hunt (No. 6 in the CCJ Top 250) failed to make religious accommodations for the four men during the hiring process after they requested an alternative to hair sample testing. Three of the four applicants were denied employment at the company and another was screened out of the hiring pool prior to an interview.

The lack of accommodation for their religious beliefs led to the denial of their hire, the EEOC says, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

J.B. Hunt agreed to enter into a two-year conciliation agreement with EEOC and the alleged victims, thereby avoiding litigation. J.B. Hunt has revised its written policies and procedures regarding religious accommodations and established an alternative to the drug testing by hair sample for those who need an accommodation. Aside from the monetary relief, the company will extend a conditional offer of employment to all complainants in this case.


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Sikh truck drivers reach accord in religious discrimination case involving a major shipping company

Los Angeles Times  /  November 15, 2016

After a seven-year federal investigation, authorities announced Tuesday that a national shipping company has agreed to change its employment practices and pay $260,000 in damages to four Sikh truck drivers in California who complained of religious discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reached a settlement with trucking giant J.B. Hunt to resolve allegations that three men were denied work because they refused to cut their hair for pre-employment drug tests.

A fourth Sikh claimed he lost his job offer because he declined to remove his turban when asked to provide a urine sample.

According to the case, all four requested other types of drug tests and told company representatives that they must keep their hair unshorn and wear turbans because of their faith. Headwear and jackets were not allowed to be worn when urine samples were taken.

“I am relieved by this resolution because no one should have to face humiliation because of their religious beliefs,” said Jagtar Singh Anandpuri, a trucker from Union City. “I have been driving a truck for years, and I know there is nothing about my faith that interferes with my ability to do my job.”

 J.B. Hunt representatives and the company attorney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The drivers are followers of Sikhism, a monotheistic religion that originated during the 15th century in the Punjab region of India and Pakistan. There are five symbols of faith — uncut hair wrapped in a turban, a wooden comb, cotton undergarments, an iron bracelet and iron dagger.

About 500,000 Sikhs live in the United States. Roughly half are in California.

The other truckers in the case are Lakhbir Singh, 50, of San Joaquin County and Palwinder Singh, 66, of Tracy. One driver requested that his name not be used. He has moved from the Modesto area to Indiana.

In addition to the $260,000 payment, the settlement requires J.B. Hunt to retrain its hiring personnel, change its practices to comply with federal anti-discrimination laws, allow the Sikhs to reapply for work, and submit progress reports to the EEOC during the next two years.

Although each had a good employment history, the drivers said J.B. Hunt rescinded their job offers after they requested that exceptions be made for their religion. Three were informed of the reversal at a company orientation in South Gate while the fourth was told over the telephone.  

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which regulates the commercial trucking industry, does not require testing of hair samples for employment. Other forms of drug testing are available, such as examining nail samples.

“Our clients repeatedly asked for alternatives within the drug testing regimes that would allow them to follow their religious tenets, and those requests were denied. Thankfully, J.B. Hunt has finally switched gears and moved into the right lane to comply with federal anti-discrimination law,” said Harsimran Kaur, legal director of the Sikh Coalition, a national civil rights organization.

While the payment for damages only alleviates some of the drivers’ wage losses, the coalition contends the settlement will positively affect other Sikhs who might face religious discrimination in the workplace.

"This settlement encourages Sikh Americans everywhere, including at J.B. Hunt, that they can maintain their articles of faith without sacrificing their livelihood — as is their right,” said James A. Sonne, director of the Stanford Law School Religious Liberty Clinic, which joined the coalition in representing the drivers.


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So, Lakhbir, Palwinder and Jagtar demonstarte their unwillingness to subjugate to the American way of life by refusing J.B. Hunt’s pre-employment hair-sample drug testing program that ALL other drivers are required to take.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) states regarding "Pre-employment", an employer must receive a negative drug test result before permitting a CDL driver to operate a CMV. (§382.301).

However, Lakhbir, Palwinder and Jagtar argued that their religion places them above U.S. law, and walk away with $260,000.

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