Pakistani-American Files Lawsuit

San Francisco: A Pakistani-American who formerly worked for a Chicago manufacturer has filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired after he complained of harassment by co-workers and supervisors following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The suit by Syed Abbas said a co-worker repeatedly called him a terrorist while a supervisor drew laughter at the factory when he made a crude drawing of Mr Abbas and labeled it a 'wanted' poster.

In an interview, Mr Abbas, a naturalized US citizen, said he was so alarmed when one supervisor told him he was under government surveillance that he sold his house and moved his family to the house of a relative.
The same supervisor had warned Mr Abbas that someone would break into his house and shoot him, according to the suit. "They took advantage of him because they knew they could play on his fears," said Kamran Memon, one of Mr Abbas' lawyers.

"They picked a guy who they knew was vulnerable." Mr Abbas, 40, married and father of four children, said he worked as a machine operator in the factory for nearly nine years before he was fired in March 2003.
Before September 11, Mr Abbas said, "Everything was okay." His boss considered him a good employee and team player. But after the terrorist attacks, a supervisor repeatedly told Mr Abbas he was dangerous and that no more Pakistanis would be hired fulltime, according to the suit.

The supervisor told Mr Abbas that the CIA and the FBI were watching him, the suit charged. When he repeatedly complained about the alleged harassment, the factory manager became hostile, yelling at him in front of other employees and unfairly criticizing his work. He was also given more difficult assignments and reduced overtime, according to the suit.

The suit doesn't seek specific damages, but Mr Memon said he wanted compensation for emotional abuse as well as financial losses. Mr Abbas had been undergoing counseling since he was fired, Mr Memon said.
The number of cases alleging workplace discrimination based on religion has increased significantly since the September 11 attacks, according to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In the three years after September 11, the number of discrimination charges by Muslims or those perceived to be Muslims more than doubled to 1,778, compared with 892 in the three years before the terrorist attacks, the EEOC says.


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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