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J.B. Hunt Transport Settles EEOC Religious Discrimination Charge for $260,000

Sikh Applicants Denied Religious Accommodation During the Hiring Process, Federal Agency Charges

J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., one of the largest transportation logistics companies in North America, 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 recently 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 out of 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. Aside from the monetary relief, the company will extend a conditional offer of employment to all complainants in this case. 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."

"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.

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.