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Vol. 51, No. 9
Following are some of the discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC):
In January 2002, Zia Ayub, a security guard at the Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, was fired without notice. The museum said he took too long to complete rounds, and hired a non-Muslim to replace him. A suit filed by the EEOC's New York district office painted a different picture. It said Ayub was not only ostracized, but that a co-worker falsely reported to authorities that Ayub was a suspected terrorist. In October 2004, the EEOC announced a $60,000 settlement against the institution.
In September 2002, the EEOC's Phoenix district office sued Alamo Car Rental on behalf of Bilan Nur, a Somali customer service representative. Nur had been allowed to wear a hijab in observance of the holy month of Ramadan the previous two years, but was told she could not shortly after Sept. 11. Alamo told Nur that company dress code prohibits scarves, but the company had no such policy, the suit said. Alamo ultimately fired Nur-even after she offered to wear an Alamo company scarf. In May 2006, a federal judge ruled in Nur's favor, and the case is pending trial on damages.
In July 2003, the EEOC's Houston district office sued Pesce Ltd., an upscale seafood restaurant, for firing general manager Karim El-Raheb because of his Egyptian ancestry. The suit alleged that a co-owner repeatedly said in front of staff and patrons that El-Raheb could "pass for Hispanic" and should change his name to "something Latin." El-Raheb was fired in November 2001, after the co-owner openly speculated that his name and appearance were impacting restaurant earnings. In March 2005, the EEOC announced a $150,000 settlement.
In September 2003, the EEOC in New York sued The Plaza Hotel and Fairmont Hotel and Resorts Inc. alleging that managers and co-workers subjected Muslim, Arab and South Asian employees to a hostile work environment. Among other things, the suit said employees were cursed and that managers wrote "Osama," "Binladin [sic]," "Alkada [sic]" and "Taliban" instead of the employees' actual names when giving them holders with room keys. In June 2005, the EEOC announced a $525,000 settlement on behalf of 12 employees.
Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer in the New York City area.
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