After a seven-year federal investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), four Sikh-American truck drivers have reached a $260,000 settlement agreement this week with one of America's largest trucking companies, J.B. Hunt, for religious discrimination, according to The Sikh Coalition.
The EEOC found that while conducting pre-employment drug tests, J.B. Hunt failed to accommodate the four drivers' religious beliefs and give the men alternatives to removing their turbans and cutting their hair. All four drivers were automatically denied employment.
"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," Harsimran Kaur, The Sikh Coalition legal director, said in a statement to NBC News. "Thankfully J.B. Hunt has finally switched gears and moved into the right lane to comply with federal anti-discrimination law."
The company will also have to bring company policies and practices in line with federal anti-discrimination laws, train hiring personnel on anti-discrimination law, and report workplace anti-discrimination efforts to the EEOC for two years.
This sends a message to all employers that they must provide accommodations to drug testing regimes for both religious and medical reasons, according to The Sikh Coalition, which is representing the truckers with the Stanford Law School Religious Liberty Clinic.
"I am relieved by this resolution because no one should have to face humiliation because of their religious beliefs," Jagtar Singh Anandpuri, the lead complainant in the suit, said in a statement. "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."
Sikhs have been a part of America for over 125 years. Sikh men are required by their faith to wear turbans and to not cut their hair and beards, according to advocates. The U.S. Department of Transportation, which regulates the commercial trucking industry, does not require hair sample tests for employment, and accepts alternative forms of drug testing, according to The Sikh Coalition.