Jury Returns $5 Million Verdict in Discrimination Case for Muslim Woman

A jury in Jackson County, Missouri awarded a woman $5 million in a religious discrimination case against AT & T.  The state court jury awarded Susan Bashir $5 million in punitive damages along with $120,000 in lost wages and other damages.  According to the Kansas City Star, the verdict appears to be the largest award in Missouri history.  Bashir claimed that her work environment became hostile after she converted to Islam.  She alleged that her co-workers made harassing comments about her religion.  Bashir worked as a fiber optics network builder for about 10 years before she was fired.  She was earning $70,000 per year.  Bashir contended that she endured discriminatory remarks on a daily basis for the last three years of her employment, including being asked if she was going to blow up the building, being called a "towelhead," and a terrorist.  Bashir will not see the full award, however.  State law limits punitive damage awards to five times the actual damages and attorney's fees.  Under federal law, punitive damages are limited to $300,000 against the largest employers, except in race discrimination cases.  Bashir said that she called an employee hotline in 2005, but nothing happened.  Bashir claimed that she could not return to work after enduring the harassment.  Nine months later, the company fired her.  We counsel our clients to make a record of each complaint to management - whether it be to a hotline or upper management.  If the company fires the employee after the complaint, he or she may have a viable retaliation claim as well, in addition to a substantive discrimination claim.
Categories: Employment Law