Kansas City: Susann Bashir, an American Muslim woman, has been awarded $5 million apart from $120,000 in lost wages and other actual damages by a Jackson Country court as compensation for punitive damages in her religious discrimination lawsuit against AT&T.
Susann Bashir hails from the largest city of Missouri State in the USA, Kansas City, and converted to Islam in 2005. She was an employee of AT&T which is a well-known and leading telecommunication firm worldwide.
The awarded compensation money by the jury seems to be the largest jury verdict in Missouri history of the judicial cases against workplace discrimination.
She had alleged her previous employer with harassment and discrimination charges as she was intentionally being victimized due to her conversion to Islam.
She said that she was selectively victimized and harassed at AT&T for years. She had to go through the hell of victimization only because she was a Muslim and she also had to see the peak of abuse against her when her boss, in 2008, snatched her headscarf and exposed her hair.
Susann Bashir recorded in court documents that the atmosphere at her workplace became hostile for her all of a sudden when her colleagues came to know that she had embraced Islam. She noticed her co-workers passing harassing and abusive comments on her religion, Islam. It was painful for her when they used to refer her hijab as “that thing on her head.”
She remarked with disappointment, “I was shocked. I thought, ‘What is going on? Nobody ever cared what I wore before. Nobody ever cared what religion I was before.”
Susann Bashir carried out her duties as a fiber optics network builder at AT&T office in Kansas City for 10 years but her employer fired her from the job from which she was earning $70,000 in a year.
She said that the last three years of her job were like hell for her when she had to endure religious discrimination almost every day at her office from her colleagues. She was asked pathetic and disgusted questions like if she was going to blow up the building and she used to be called a “towelhead” and a terrorist.
Susann informed that she had called an employee helpline in 2005 for requesting the company to train her co-workers for learning sensitivity manners but all in vain as she did not get positive response from the company.
“It was a worthless call, nothing ever changed,” she commented.
She said that she had had enough of this discriminatory behavior and she launched her complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2008 as the harassment was going on against her. It was the move by her that made some workers annoyed and the tussle entered into a final stage between Susann and her boss.
She added that she became so stressed out that she was not able to return to work. She asked the company to either remove her boss or transfer her to another station, but the AT&T management turned a deaf ear to her appeal. In return, the management fired her as she had failed to report back in office for nine months.
Susann stated, “By firing me, they stole my ability to work at a job I liked.”
The incident shocked her family, she continued, and broke her physically and mentally. However, she moved to Anchorage in Alaska with her daughter after being fired from the job and fortunately got a position of an apartment manager there.
“I have mixed feelings. I am happy not to be reporting to that management structure. But it is hard in this economy to find a job with that level of compensation. I did not want to lose my job, because I felt I was doing good work,” she said amid mixed reactions.
According to the Missouri’s laws, Susann Bashir will receive substantially less amount than $5 million as law minimizes such awards at five times the actual damage amount, plus attorney fees which will be determined later by the judge.
However, AT&T has stated that it disagrees with the verdict by the court and it is planning to appeal against it.