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Nov 27, 2015

Harassment case based on anti-Muslim comments heads to trial

Harassment & Discrimination 

A case against Boeing alleging inflammatory, harassing comments against an Egyptian-born Muslim employee will move forward to trial in Washington.

A case against Boeing alleging inflammatory, harassing comments against an Egyptian-born Muslim employee will move forward to trial in Washington. The employee alleges that a Boeing supervisor denied him a temporary promotion because of his race, and that various managers and coworkers made racist and derogatory comments to him about his race, national origin, and religion. The Washington federal court judge handling the case determined that the employee presented enough evidence to take his case to a jury.

The employee presented evidence that a supervisor denied him a temporary promotion after commenting to one of his coworkers, “I’m not going to let that Ali-Baba terrorist be a team lead.” If a jury determines that denial of the temporary promotion is an adverse employment action, and that it was based on the supervisor’s discriminatory hostility toward Arabs or Muslims, Boeing may be strictly liable for the supervisor’s actions.

The employee also presented evidence of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim comments by other managers and coworkers that could support hostile work environment and retaliation claims. For example, a coworker pointed to him and commented to their manager that Boeing doesn’t just build the best airplanes, “they also come with a terrorist.” The manager allegedly laughed at this and walked away. Other managers allegedly referred to the employee as “camel jockey,” “terrorist,” and “Taliban,” and these references by managers and coworkers continued after the employee complained to other supervisors and Human Resources. Under Washington law, an employer is liable for harassment in the workplace if the company knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take action reasonably calculated to end the harassment (Emad v. The Boeing Company, WD Wash, August 2015).

Tips: This case serves as a reminder about the importance of regular training for both managers and employees on recognizing and preventing workplace discriminationand harassment, as well as the need for a current harassment policy detailing the procedures for reporting perceived harassment and requiring a prompt and thorough investigation of such reports. For more information, see our Legal Guide, “Harassment in the Workplace: Avoiding Liability,” and our “Policy Against Harassment.” Learn more about working with Vigilant for your complex harassment and discrimination issues. Check out our all-inclusive employer counsel service or contact us.
 

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