AT&T to Pay $5M to Muslim Woman in Harassment Case

Kansas City, MO: A former Kansas City woman who converted to Islam in 2005 said she was harassed for years at AT&T, and that the abuse boiled over in 2008 when her boss snatched her head scarf and exposed her hair.

A Jackson County jury on Thursday awarded Susann Bashir $5 million in punitive damages in her discrimination lawsuit, along with $120,000 in lost wages and other actual damages.

The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/JKWbqR) reported Saturday the award appears to be the largest jury verdict for a workplace discrimination case in Missouri history.

Bashir said in court documents that her work environment became hostile immediately after she converted, with her co-workers making harassing comments about her religion and referring to her hijab as "that thing on her head."

"I was shocked. I thought, 'What is going on?'" she told the newspaper. "Nobody ever cared what I wore before. Nobody ever cared what religion I was before."

Bashir worked at AT&T's office in Kansas City for 10 years as a fiber optics network builder before being fired from her $70,000-a-year job. She claimed she endured religious discrimination nearly every day of the final three years she worked there, including being asked if she was going to blow up the building and being called a "towelhead" and a terrorist.

AT&T said Friday it disagrees with the verdict and plans to appeal.

Despite the jury's award, Bashir stands to receive much less than $5 million because Missouri law caps such awards at five times the actual damage amount, plus attorney fees.

Amy Coopman, Bashir's lawyer, said attorney fees will be determined later by the judge.

The previous largest such verdict came in 2009, when Mohamed Alhalabi, an Arab-American Muslim, was awarded $811,949 in St. Louis County Circuit Court in a case against the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

 

 

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