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Court agrees anti-Muslim comments by supervisor created a hostile work environment and supported the employee’s claim of illegal retaliation

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly recently reported an important decision about anti-Muslim employee discrimination.  At the first meeting the Muslim employee attended at his new job, the supervisor made what he claimed was a  joke that they should not worry about the employee being a terrorist.  The defendants claimed this was an isolated comment and that other employees were either not offended or chuckled at the comment.

The Court said it did not need to address whether the comments by themselves were just a stray remark or something worse  because the employers’  post comment conduct was so offensive as to create an illegal hostile work environment.  When the employee would walk through the office, one employee spat at the floor.  Another stated, “There goes the terrorist.”  The employee overheard his manager make offensive comments about bombing that “f–cking country and killing all the terrorists.”

Under Massachusetts law, the company was strictly liable for the anti-Muslim comments by the manager.  The company knew about the comments and took no corrective action.

As for the retaliation claim, the employee complained that the company failed to hire him for three different internal positions.  Although the employer claimed that there was no standard process for filling open positions, there was evidence that challenged the legitimacy of the posting process.  These claims were sufficient for the court to agree the case should go to a jury who would decide if the hiring process was a contrivance to mask discriminatory beliefs.

Pamela A. Smith
Law Office of Pamela A. Smith
233 Needham Street, Suite 540
Newton, MA 02464


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