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(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/29/11) –- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today termed
Muslim civil rights group calls hotel's defense an 'unprecedented claim'
"unprecedented" a claim by a Washington, D.C., hotel that it had the right to discriminate against a Muslim employee because of a "national security exemption."
In a motion filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel said the Muslim employee's discrimination lawsuit should be rejected by the court because the hotel "was following a mandate from the federal government regarding a matter of national security."
The hotel's motion blames its discriminatory actions on security requirements allegedly imposed by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).
"It is chilling to see the Mandarin Hotel -- a private company -- claim that national security concerns shield its discriminatory conduct from the law," said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas. "We are confident the court will reject this unprecedented claim."
Abbas said CAIR's suit on behalf of the Muslim employee alleged that in December 2010, the American citizen of Moroccan heritage was forbidden to go to the 8th or 9th floors of the hotel because an Israeli delegation was staying there.
CAIR: Muslim Employees Barred From Floors Where Israelis Stayed (Wash. Post)
The Muslim employee was reportedly barred from those floors despite the fact that he had previously undergone an FBI background check and had carried out his duties for other foreign delegations and dignitaries, including a former American president.
According to the suit, when the Muslim employee asked why he was barred from those floors, he was told by a supervisor, "You know how the Israelis are with Arabs and Muslims." As quoted in CAIR's lawsuit, another hotel supervisor allegedly stated that "the Israeli delegation does not want to be served by Defendant's Muslim employees and that Defendant accommodates this preference because it does not want to lose the Israeli delegation as clients."
The suit also alleges that hotel supervisors believed the Muslim employee "would particularly pose a problem for the Israeli delegation, because if they encountered him, members of the delegation would easily be able to see his name -- Mohamed -- written on his employee nametag."
After the Muslim worker's colleagues learned of the restrictions the hotel had placed on his duties, several of them ridiculed him as a potential terrorist, "poking him in the stomach to feign checking his body for explosives."
CAIR's suit also alleges that the hotel retaliated against the employee for complaining about the discriminatory treatment.
The lawsuit seeks diversity training for hotel employees, back pay for the Muslim worker, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney's fees, and an order requiring the hotel to adopt a non-discrimination and retaliation policy and to establish an effective mechanism for receiving and responding to complaints of discrimination and retaliation.
To read the entire lawsuit, click here.
CAIR offers a booklet, called "An Employer's Guide to Islamic Religious Practices," to help employers gain a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the workplace.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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