EEOC Accuses Airport Employers of Race and Religion Discrimination

July 20, 2005 ( - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has determined that a post-9/11 rule that employees take a test in English to require a security badge at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport constitutes discrimination based on national origin.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the EEOC also found that a supervisor for Aramark Aviation Services committed discrimination based on religion when he complained about the scarves Somali women wore on their heads.

The EEOC investigated when 12 Somali women and two Somali men lost their jobs cleaning planes because they could not pass the English test to obtain airport security badges. The EEOC sent letters on their discrimination ruling to Hartsfield-Jackson, Aramark, and Delta Air Lines, which is also considered an employer, according to the newspaper.

Previously, the Somalis were allowed an interpreter to take the test, but a spokesman for the airport said they stopped using interpreters because they suspected them of giving the test takers answers. According to the newspaper report, the EEOC responded that the airport never proved its suspicions and waited three years to eliminate the use of interpreters. A spokesperson for the airport told the Journal-Constitution that there are no plans to change the use of the English-only test.

Ali Omar, executive director for the Georgia Somali Community told the newspaper that some Mexican and Vietnamese workers had also contacted him because they lost their jobs due to failing the test.

The 14 Somalis and three employers will now attempt to reach a settlement. If a settlement can not be reached the case will go to court, officials said.