A federal jury has ordered Alamo Rent A Car to pay a Muslim woman $287,640 for firing her because she refused to remove a head scarf she was wearing during the holy month of Ramadan.

The firing of Bilan Nur, then 22, came just four months after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company for what it termed a “post 9/11 backlash,” alleging that she was fired because of her religious beliefs in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn O. Silver ruled last year that the government had proven religious discrimination and Alamo had shown no proof that it had taken reasonable steps to allow Nur to follow her beliefs before firing her.

That left the jury in the trial that ended Friday with only the question of how much damages to award, said Mary Jo O’Neill, the regional attorney for the EEOC.

The jury in the three-day trial awarded Nur $21,640 in back wages, $16,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages.

Nur, a Somali who fled the war-ravaged country and came to the U.S. in 1998, was hired by Alamo as a rental agent at its Phoenix office in November, 1999. Her job performance was described as “fine,” until the events leading to her firing, Judge Silver wrote in her ruling.

But that changed in 2001, when Nur asked her bosses at Alamo for permission to wear a head scarf during Ramadan, which began November 16. She was told that she could wear a scarf while in the back office, but must remove it when she came to the counter to help customers.

The company’s dress code did not specifically ban scarves but contained a provision barring any “garments or item of clothing not specifically mentioned in the policy.”


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