Best Ohio Religious Discrimination Attorney Answer: How do I stop religious discrimination at work? Can I be fired for complaining that my boss is harassing because I’m Muslim? What should I do if I was passed over for a promotion because of my religion? Do I have a right to pray at work? How do I find the best lawyer to help me with religious discrimination at work?
Like religions themselves, religious discrimination comes in a variety of practices. But, however it occurs, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Ohio Unlawful Discriminatory Practice Statute, R.C. § 4112.02 makes such religious discrimination unlawful. Under these antidiscrimination laws, employers must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices, which would include prayer time and dress requirements, unless making such accommodations would create a demonstrative unreasonable burden on the employer. These religious discrimination laws prevent hostile work environments and harassment based on religion; and prevents employer from making decisions, such as who to hire, fire or promote, based on religion. It sound relatively simple, but religious discrimination happens in workplaces every day.
For example, let’s look at the situation of Ali Aboubaker, 56, who came Tunisia two decades ago and became a naturalized citizen. Aboubaker was qualified. He held four advanced degrees, including a degree in mechanical engineering, a degree in engineering graphics and two degrees from Kalamazoo Valley Community College in mechanical engineering and mechanical engineering technology. And then, Aboubaker earned about 79 credits from a local community college.
So when he could find a job at Washtenaw County, what was it? Aboubaker was hired in as a bus driver. Over the years he got promoted to Maintenance Technician I. Aboubaker did not complain that he was over qualified he just did his job.
Then came the September 11, 2001 attacks, and Aboubaker, who was Muslim, became the target of severe and ongoing harassment from his bosses and co-workers based on his race, religion and national origin.
One supervisor, William Howe called Aboubaker a “terrorist”, “Osama”, “Bin Laden” and “al quida” right to his face, which prompted co-workers to do the same. A newer supervisor, Dan Ferrell, continued to harass and discriminate against Aboubaker. According to the Complaint, Ferrell allowed a co-worker called him a terrorist at a work seminar and joined in the laughter. In addition to the religious harassment, his bosses also interfered with his religious practices. As a practicing Muslim, Aboubaker tied to pray at specific times in the day and reserve Friday as the Sabbath. Aboubaker would take 15 minutes during his lunch break to do his mid-day prayer. Additionally, Aboubaker saved his break time and lunch to use for his special worship on Fridays between 1:30 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. But, Ferrell intentionally schedule meetings at lunch (a possible wage and hour violation also) and often would call Aboubaker’s cell phone at his known prayer time.
In late 2005, the employer changed to to a four-day workweek and allowed each employee to request a particular weekday d to take off. For religious reasons, Aboubaker asked to have Fridays off. While, nearly everyone else received Friday off, Aboubaker did not until he raised the issue of religious discrimination.
While trying to make Aboubaker work at times conflicting with his religious practices, the employer refused to give Aboubaker the same opportunity to work overtime that it gave to less senior coworkers.
Aboubaker complained to HR about the harassment and discrimination about two or three times a year from the time it started, but no action was taken. Without any help from HR and continued harassment and discrimination, Aboubaker filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He was fired about one month later.
After the employer refused to settle, the EEOC investigated and made the following findings of religious discrimination and harassment: “There is reasonable cause to believe that the Charging Party has been subjected to race, religion, retaliation, national origin harassment, unfair treatment and, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. Like, related and growing out of the investigation, evidence reveals that Charging Party was subjected to retaliation in the form of a discharge.”
The employer still refused to settle.
So, Aboubaker sued and a U.S. District Court jury found that there was religious discrimination and harassment, found for Aboubaker, and returned a verdict for $1,185,520.10, which included lost wages of $321,490.13, future lost wages of $614,028.97, other damages $250,000 (which would include future pecuniary losses, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-pecuniary losses); and punitive damages of $1.
The employer clearly deserves the large verdict after such discriminatory and harassing practices, as well as refusing to settle. But, it could have been worse. At first, given the above facts, I was unclear how a jury could only award $1 for punitive damages. Then, I found this tidbit. The trial court ruled that the Aboubaker was not allowed to testify or present evidence regarding the names h his supervisor and co-workers called him because, in the judge’s view, such language would be so inflammatory as to bias the jury. Call me crazy, but I truly think that if it so inflammatory that an employee has to live through it, well, the jury should hear that directly. If it is inflammatory, it was inflammatory to the Muslim employee as he repeatedly heard it over and over again throughout his employment. Can you imagine a judge not letting a black employee tell the jury that his bosses called him “nigger” or “boy” in a race discrimination case?
This is a perfect example of when we tell our clients that there is always a risk regarding what a judge will do (helped the employer in this case) and what a jury will do (large verdict here for employee).
Washtenaw County appealed, but I suspect that it should be worried on the cross appeal. Maybe now, they will cut their loss and settle.
If you feel that you are being discriminated or harassed based on your religion or religious beliefs or that you were wrongfully terminated because of you are Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Hindu or any other religion, the best course of action you can take is to call the right attorney at 866-797-6040 to schedule a free and confidential consultation. At the Spitz law firm, you will meet with a religious discrimination attorney, who will be able to tell you what your legal rights are and the best way to protect them.
The materials available at the top of this religious discrimination blog and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “How do I …”, “What should I do …,” “Can my boss discriminate against me because I’m (Jewish/Muslim/Mormon/Hindu)?” or “I was fired for my religious beliefs. The answer to “What can I do?”, is to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular religious discrimination or other employment law issue or problem. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of the Spitz law firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.