Muslim employees at Halliburton called 'terrorists': lawsuit | USA News | Al Jazeera

Muslim employees at Halliburton called 'terrorists': lawsuit

A complaint filed in Texas shines a light on the alleged discrimination of Muslims in the workplace.

by
    The company logo of Halliburton oilfield services corporate offices is seen in Houston  [File: Richard Carson/Reuters]
    The company logo of Halliburton oilfield services corporate offices is seen in Houston [File: Richard Carson/Reuters]

    Two Muslim men were subjected to racist and Islamaphobic harassment while working at the American multinational energy corporation Halliburton in US state of Texas, according to a federal lawsuit.

    Filed earlier this month by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the lawsuit claims that Hassan Snoubar and Mir Ali were taunted and harassed by supervisors and fellow employees.

    In response to Al Jazeera's request for a comment, William Fitzgerald, a spokesperson for Halliburton, said the corporation does not comment on pending litigation.

    "Halliburton is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment for our more than 55,000 employees that represent 140 nationalities in approximately 80 countries," Fitzgerald said by email.

    Joel Clark, the senior trial lawyer on the three-person EEOC team, described the case as "very important". 

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    We allege that Halliburton subjected Mr Snoubar (Syrian) and Mr Ali (Indian) to discrimination based on their national origin and religion, Muslim," he told Al Jazeera by email.

    "The EEOC will prosecute these kinds of cases to prevent discrimination from happening in the workplace and to vindicate the rights of those affected by discrimination." 

    'Abruptly terminated'

    According to the lawsuit, coworkers accused Snoubar, who is of Syrian descent, of being linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) and called him a "terrorist" and "camel jockey".

    Snoubar began working as an operator assistant at Halliburton's facility in Kilgore, Texas in August 2012.

    The lawsuit adds that Ali, who is of Indian ancestry, was also called a "terrorist", and that a supervisor regularly mocked him about having a "magic carpet".

    "Snoubar's and Ali's co-workers regularly broadcast derogatory name calling over radio headsets to other workers," the lawsuit states, adding that supervisors and other employees mocked their "cultural attire" and claimed that "their 'people' engaged in bestiality". 

    The filing explains that Snoubar lodged a complaint with the human resources department in September 2015 over the alleged harassment and concerns for his personal safety.

    Although Halliburton initially suggested that Snoubar could transfer to another facility, according to the filing, he was "abruptly terminated" before "having a reasonable opportunity to consider" the offer. Snoubar and Ali are no longer employed by Halliburton.

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    The lawsuit seeks punitive financial damages and compensation for "humiliation, emotional pain and suffering, stress, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life".

    It also requests a permanent injunction barring Halliburton from discrimination based on national origin, religion and retaliation.

    Broader discrimination

    The lawsuit is the latest in a long string of cases alleging discrimination against US Muslims in the workplace.

    According to the 2017 "Civil Rights Report", published by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), employment discrimination is persistent for American Muslims.

    "From 2014 to 2016," according to the report, "employment discrimination has consistently remained in the top three types of anti-Muslim bias incidents."

    CAIR documented 312 anti-Muslim bias incidents in workplaces in 2014, 230 in 2015 and 281 in 2016.

    In 2015, the EEOC v Abercrombie and Fitch case went to the US Supreme Court, which said that employers are forbidden from rejecting applicants if the decision is based on a desire to avoid accommodating to a religious practice.

    That case stemmed from Abercrombie and Fitch's refusal to hire Samantha Elauf, who was a teenager at the time, because her hijab did not comply with the clothing company's "look policy", which prohibited the wearing of head coverings at work. 

    According to a July 2017 poll by the Pew Research Center based on interviews with 1,001 Muslim respondents, 75 percent believed there was "a lot of discrimination" against the religious minority in the US.

    The poll also found that 62 percent of respondents felt that Americans did not view Islam as part of US society and that 60 percent considered American media coverage of Muslims "unfair".

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    Following the November 2016 election of US President Donald Trump, rights groups observed a sharp uptick in hate crimes, including those targeting Muslims.

    According to a separate CAIR report, the number of hate crimes against Muslims grew by 15 percent in 2017, reaching a total of 300 incidents.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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