Some religious bias cases are subtle. Here’s one that’s not.
A jury in Missouri has awarded a Muslim woman $5 million after she filed suit against her company, claiming religious bias.
Susann Bashir worked as a fiber optics network builder for AT&T for 10 years, and was commended for her good work in the company’s newsletter.
But after she converted to Islam, she said she endured years of daily harassment:
- Colleagues called her “towelhead” and a terrorist
- Workers referred to her hijab as “that thing on her head”
- Bible verses were left on her desk, and
- Employees asked if she was going to blow up the building.
Bashir said she called an employee help line and requested sensitivity training for her co-workers, but nothing was done.
So Bashir complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which began investigating her complaint.
That’s when the harassment hit a breaking point, culminating in her manager snatching her scarf off and exposing her head and hair — considered a “private part” for Muslim women — during a routine meeting.
Bashir asked that she be transferred or that her manager be removed, but neither happened. She said she was so stressed that she couldn’t return to work, and was subsequently fired.
The EEOC sued on her behalf, and a jury ruled in her favor, awarding her $5 million – the largest jury verdict for a workplace religious discrimination case in Missouri history. (The award will likely be less — Missouri caps such awards at five times the actual damage, plus attorney fees.)
In addition, the jury awarded her $120,000 in lost wages and other damages.
Previously, the largest jury verdict for a religious bias case came in 2009, when an Arab-American won $811,949 in a case against the Missouri Department of natural Resources.