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Muslim Convert Wins $5M Punitive Damages Award Against AT&T in Hostile Work Environment Case

Posted May 7, 2012 11:15 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: A Muslim convert has been awarded $120,000 in actual damages and $5 million in punitive damages in a hostile work environment case by a Missouri state-court jury.

The Associated Press, relying on information from the Kansas City Star, says it appears to be the largest jury verdict in an employment discrimination case in state history.

Susann Bashir, now 41, said she began experiencing offensive and discriminatory conduct after she converted to Islam in 2005, six years after she began working at Southwestern Bell, a unit of AT&T, as a network technician, Reuters reports.

Managers and co-workers called her names, including "terrorist," and told her she was going to hell, said Bashir's lawyer, Amy Coopman. According to her suit and her testimony, a manager not only pressured her to remove the hijab, or head scarf, she wore in conformance with the teachings of her religion but actually snatched it off her head at one point.

Although the Jackson County Circuit Court jury ruled on Thursday that the company had discriminated against Bashir, it found in the company's favor concerning her claim that she had been fired in retaliation for her complaint.

An AT&T spokesman said it will appeal. He called the company "a nationally recognized leader in workforce diversity and inclusion, something in which we take great pride."

Updated at 11:19 a.m. to include information from Associated Press.

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