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Jury sides with Muslim men fired for refusing to deliver alcohol

PEORIA, Ill. -- A jury has awarded $240,000 to two Muslim men who say they were fired from an Illinois trucking company after refusing to deliver alcohol.

A judge found Morton-based Star Transport Inc. violated the religious beliefs of Mahad Abass Mohamed and Abdikarim Hassan Bulshale. A trial to determine whether they were entitled to damages ended Oct. 20 with the jury's judgment.

A 2013 lawsuit filed by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said the men were fired in 2009 after they wouldn't deliver alcohol because it was against their religious values as practicing Muslims. The lawsuit claimed the company didn't provide them "with a reasonable accommodation and by terminating them because of their religion."

Chief U.S. District Judge James Shadid had found in favor of the commission in March, after the company admitted liability. June Calhoun, one of the commission's attorneys on the case, said Star Transport didn't provide discrimination training to human resources staff, leading to "catastrophic results" for the two men.

"They suffered real injustice that needed to be addressed," Calhoun said in a statement. "By this verdict, the jury remedied the injustice by sending clear messages to Star Transport and other employers that they will be held accountable for their unlawful employment practices."

The commission had tried to work with Star Transport on the issue a year before the lawsuit was filed, court records say.

It's not clear whether the men will get the money, the (Peoria) Journal Star reports. Star Transport went out of business earlier this year.

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