Muslim American secures $1.1 million in religious discrimination suit

A Detroit jury has awarded one of the largest employment discrimination verdicts in a federal case involving a Muslim American. The victim came to Michigan from Tunisia and became a naturalized citizen. The hope was to secure a better life in the United States. Unfortunately, after 17 years of employment in America, he was fired from his job as a maintenance worker.

In the past, the Muslim American had been overlooked for promotions. He was eventually fired from his position with Washtenaw County as a result of his beard, which reached down to his chest. In some religious communities, this serves as a religious mark of manhood - especially among the practice of Islam. However, the man's employer was purportedly against the appearance of the worker, so the man was let go. After he was released, he had difficulty securing another job.

It got worse, too. The former employee ultimately lost his home. He also lost his family and children of over two decades. Fortunately, the Detroit employee initiated a lawsuit against his former employer on the basis of employment and religious discrimination. After six years of litigation, the jury ultimately awarded the man $1.1 million.

Unfortunately, the county employer denies any bias and plans to initiate an appeal in the matter. Nevertheless, this story uncovers some of the inherent prejudices faced by foreign workers in America.

Discrimination at the workplace

Most workers are considered "at-will" employees, meaning employers have discretion in terminating employees without reason. On the other hand, an employer cannot take action against a worker for an unlawful purpose, such as employment discrimination. Federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of the following:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Color
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Disability

Michigan carries further protections for employees discriminated against on the basis of height, weight, national origin and marital status.

If you suspect that you faced an adverse action at your job as a result of any of the above-mentioned reasons, it may help to meet with an employment law professional. As in the aforementioned matter, employers will rarely admit to discriminating against worker. Instead, an employer may point the finger at an employee and claim that the individual was adversely affected because of performance-based reasons. For this reason, it is helpful to have legal assistance in an employment law matter. A seasoned attorney can help you present evidence and protect your rights.