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US firm sued for calling Sikh employee ‘bin Laden’

Boston: Automobile parts retailer AutoZone has been sued by a federal agency for discriminating against a Sikh employee, who was not allowed to wear a turban and was called “bin Laden” and “terrorist” by the firm’s other employees and customers.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency enforcing laws against workplace discrimination, has filed a lawsuit against AutoZone alleging it “created a hostile work environment for Frank Mahoney Burroughs because of his Sikh religion”.

The lawsuit alleges that a manager at AutoZone asked Burroughs “if he was a terrorist and had joined al Qaeda and whether he intended to blow up the store”. Further, AutoZone failed to intervene when customers referred to Burroughs as “bin Laden and made terrorist jokes”.

AutoZone also refused to let Burroughs, who had converted to Sikhism, wear a turban and ‘kara’ (a religious bracelet) as required by his religion. When Burroughs complained against the discrimination, AutoZone retaliated by firing him “because of his religion”.

“It was very painful to be humiliated and insulted by them (AutoZone). They made me feel as though I had no right to practise my faith,” Burroughs said in a statement. He added that when he complained, he was “discarded like a piece of trash”.

Burroughs does not want “AutoZone to do this to anyone else”. The lawsuit filed in US district court for the district of Massachusetts on Tuesday adds that Burroughs was subjected to “bigoted harassment” and Autozone allegedly “refused to accommodate his religious need to wear a turban”.

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