EEOC fines JB Hunt for religious discrimination charge Thinkstock

EEOC fines JB Hunt for religious discrimination charge

Company didn't offer Sikh applicants alternatives to hair-test drug screen

J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. will pay $260,000 and provide other relief to settle charges of race, national origin and religious discrimination filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency has announced.

The charges filed with EEOC alleged that four East Indian Sikh applicants were denied a religious accommodation during the hiring process when they requested an alternative to the company's hair sample drug testing policy. Three of the four applicants were denied hire at the South Gate, Calif., location. The fourth applicant was screened out at the pre-screening phone call prior to even having a face-to-face meeting at the South Gate hub. The company is headquartered in Lowell, Ark.

The charges further asserted that the refusal of the religious accommodation led to the denial of hire for the four applicants. EEOC investigated the allegations and found reasonable cause to believe that J.B. Hunt failed to provide a religious accommodation and failed to hire a class of individuals due to their race, national origin and religion, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The charges were filed by the Sikh Coalition on behalf of the four Sikh applicants. One of the five articles of faith for Sikhs is maintaining uncut hair.

Without admitting liability, J.B. Hunt agreed to enter into a two-year conciliation agreement with EEOC and the alleged victims, thereby avoiding litigation. During the course of the investigation, J.B. Hunt revised its written policies and procedures regarding discrimination and religious accommodations, and established an alternative to the drug testing by hair sample for those who need an accommodation.

"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 the Sikh Coalition's legal director, Harsimran Kaur.

Aside from the monetary relief, the company will extend a conditional offer of employment to all complainants in this case, according to EEOC. J.B. Hunt further agreed to designate an equal employment opportunity consultant, develop written complaint procedures, and conduct training for all employees who participate in the hiring, compliance, or internal grievance process. EEOC will monitor compliance with this agreement.

"J.B. Hunt has been cooperative in working with EEOC to resolve this charge without resorting to litigation," said Rosa Viramontes, district director of EEOC's Los Angeles District. "We commend J.B. Hunt's willingness to revise its drug testing policy and take steps to make its hiring process more inclusive for qualified candidates regardless of race, national origin or religion."

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