Chicago Hospital Charged With Post 9/11 Religious Backlash

April 10, 2003 ( - The federal anti-discrimination agency has sued a Chicago hospital for harassing and then firing an Islamic employee because of her religion.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said its federal court suit against Norwegian American Hospital was the fourth law suit concerning what the agency said was post-9/11 backlash discrimination.

The EEOC suit, filed in US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago, charged that religious discrimination against Rashidah Abdullah began before September 11, 2001, but got worse after that. The lawsuit charges that she was subjected to hostile treatment and finally discharged because of her religion.

According to the suit’s allegations, a hospital manager made offensive comments about her religious beliefs, including referring to the Muslim holy observance of Ramadan as “Taliban.” The EEOC also alleges that Norwegian retaliated against Abdullah for complaining about the religious harassment and discriminatory treatment by intensifying the derogatory comments and by imposing unjustified disciplinary measures after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

“Ms. Abdullah’s supervisor made disparaging comments about her religion, including linking her faith to the Taliban, the former regime in Afghanistan, and stated that if she was unhappy with her treatment that she should leave the country,” said Lauren Dreilinger, EEOC Chicago trial attorney who will lead the EEOC litigation. “Such jibes and put downs have no place at work under any circumstances. Moreover, the harassment was especially egregious here because Abdullah’s family has lived in the United States for generations.”

The lawsuit seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, an order requiring the company to implement measures to prevent a recurrence, and a permanent injunction against future discrimination and retaliation.

Norwegian American Hospital has more than 500 employees.