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American Convert Sues Employer


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AutoZone sued for firing Everett Sikh

By Jerry Kronenberg

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Federal officials claim AutoZone illegally fired an Everett worker who converted to Sikhism - and did little to stop supervisors and customers from calling the man “bin Laden” and “terrorist” once he began wearing a turban.

The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission yesterday sued Memphis-based AutoZone on behalf of Frank Mahoney Burroughs, a salesman allegedly fired after some three years working at the chain’s Everett store.

“AutoZone discriminated against Burroughs by failing to reasonably accommodate his religious practices, by subjecting him to a religion-based hostile work environment and by terminating him because of his religion,” the EEOC wrote in its lawsuit.

AutoZone did not return calls seeking comment.

Authorities claim Burroughs’ troubles began when he converted in 2009 to Sikhism, a religion that requires males to grow beards and wear turbans.

Sikh men say this look has made them targets since Sept. 11, 2001, even though their religion isn’t related to Islam.

The EEOC claimed in court papers that Burroughs’ bosses refused to let him work the first time he appeared in Sikh garb.

The company later let him return, but supervisors allegedly called Burroughs “Sikhi,” “Punjabi King” and “terrorist” because of his appearance. Bosses also rarely intervened when customers made “terrorist jokes” or called the man “bin Laden,” the EEOC said.

Ultimately, AutoZone allegedly ordered Burroughs to comply with company dress codes or provide documentation justifying a religious exemption - then fired the man when he gave up and stopped coming to work. “I was discarded like a piece of trash,” the 23-year-old said in a statement issued by the Sikh Coalition, a New York-based group that’s taken up his cause.

The EEOC is seeking unspecified back pay, pain-and-suffering compensation and punitive damages for Burroughs.

It also wants an injunction banning AutoZone from “discriminating on the basis of religion (or) refusing to accommodate the religious beliefs of employees when (doing so) does not pose an undue hardship.”

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Its so good to see people inspire towards Sikhism .

Yes, but it is annoying to hear of the ignorant reactions they get for it.

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Guest SarabjeetSingh

Yes, but it is annoying to hear of the ignorant reactions they get for it.

dalsingh ji , We sikhs worldwide must understand one thing :

We are not supposed to be soft and weak . We have faced worse days than these .

Have you forgotten the time when singhs used to sleep on horse back , eat leaves and no house and shelter . When govt was brutally killing them .

We passed through that time .

It is unfortunate to see some Sikhs acting in hopelessness when we hear about activities of RSS or about various people's reaction towards our religion .

Battle is same . 300 years ago conditions were different and we had different tools for help . Today condition is different and tools are much more !

Battle is same in the sense everything happens against us and our identity but I believe ultimately this will culminate in victory of Sikhs .

Gold has to face test of fire for coming out pure .

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Kal yug world, people hate left and right. I think the Sikh coalition intervened in this as I received an email about this over a month ago.

Good thing this Singh did something about the harassment, this will establish a mute standard for all average stores nationwide.

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  • 3 years later...

Since 2009 I have studied Sikhi off and on. I met some that year from Fresno while we were all camping in Sequoia. They told me about their religion and I visited their Gurdwara once down from the mountain. At the time it was so new I never thought to ask, how do the majority of Ethnically Punjabi Sikhs feel about non Punjabi converts? Guru Nanak traveled all the way to Mecca. It seems like a universal religion.

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Sikhi is universal in its true form since 1469. It's teaching and practicality is what makes sikh dharam a unique distant lifestyle.

Sikhi is more like an 'open source' that anyone can come and go and no permission is required in order to do anything in practicing introductory part of sikhi. There are some basic rules which can be read fron 'sgpc code of conduct'.

Advance level of sikhi, 'Khalsa - baptized' requires more disciplined life - requires more of self control of desires by devoting much of time in meditation and high volunteer lifestyle.

Punjabi Sikhs actually feel good/positive on seeing Non-punjabi Sikhs or visitors in gurdwaras/temple. However, you will find strange when you feel lots of eyes on you when you are there. Staring is very common in our rural punjabi culture though it considers as rude in western culture. Believe me that none of it has anything to do with any negativity of your presence.

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