by German Lopez
Posted In: Courts
at 12:40 PM | Permalink
P&G and contractor allegedly fired Muslim worker who was humiliated by coworker
Two Cincinnati-based companies are facing a lawsuit over
the termination of a former Muslim worker. The lawsuit, filed in an North Carolina
court Monday, claims a woman named Safa Elhassan was fired from Procter & Gamble facilities after facing discrimination in the workplace.
Elhassan worked for P&G through XLC Services, a Cincinnati-based company that
provides manufacturing services and warehouse management to other
companies, at P&G facilities in Guilford County, N.C.
The lawsuit charges P&G and XLC with religious
harassment, religious discrimination, failing to accommodate after
religious discrimination in the workplace, national origin
discrimination, sexual discrimination, two counts of retaliation,
negligence, unfair and deceptive trade practices, assault, battery and
intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit tells the story that led to the charges as
follows: Elhassan, who wears a hijab and wedding ring for religious
reasons, was employed at P&G’s facilities through XLC between 2004
and Sept. 16, 2011. During her employment, Elhassan followed P&G
rules and regulations and kept “a performance record which was
satisfactory or better.”
However, Elhassan was unaware of a company policy that
banned jewelry in the workplace, even jewelry of religious significance.
This policy was mostly not a problem for Elhassan because, as the lawsuit
claims, “Other employees of different religions and national origins
routinely wear jewelry under clothing and/or protective wear and are not
punished or searched.”
That is until a woman named Ernestine Wilson allegedly approached
Elhassan, forcibly searched Elhassan for her wedding ring and removed
Elhassan’s hijab in front of coworkers, including men, according to the suit. Under Islam’s
rules, a woman uses a hijab, which is a religious head and neck wrap, to
maintain sexual modesty, and being exposed without a hijab to men who are not family is a major offense and source of humiliation.
Elhassan reported the forced search to higher-ups at XLC.
After a few meetings, Wilson provided an apology, according to the lawsuit, but Elhassan claimed the
apology was insincere because Wilson kept telling coworkers that she
hoped Elhassan was fired. After Elhassan
refused to accept the apology, she was suspended then fired, allegedly
under the orders of P&G.
The lawsuit suggests that Wilson's actions were potentially connected to another workplace incident. The lawsuit says Elhassan was sexually harassed in
the past by George (no last name provided), a man with whom Wilson was allegedly “engaged in a
friendly, physical, and/or romantic relationship." Elhassan
reported the incident, which got George
fired. The lawsuit claims Wilson’s actions were in retaliation to
Since Wilson did work for P&G through XLC, Elhassan
blames both P&G and XLC for the damages. The lawsuit claims she was
unfairly fired in retaliation for not accepting Wilson’s apology. It
also alleges that XLC forced Elhassan to sign a document she did not
understand upon her termination without her lawyer present, even though
Elhassan asked to have her lawyer read the document. The document, which
P&G officials were supposedly aware of, allegedly sought to release
P&G and XLC of any wrongdoing related to the termination.
Mary Ralles, spokesperson for P&G, responded to the lawsuit in an email: “As
a matter of company policy, we do not comment on pending litigation,
but I did want to make one correction. The individual was not (or ever)
a P&G employee.”
The distinction Ralles made is that Elhassan was not
officially employed by P&G, but she did work for P&G through her
employment at XLC.
XLC could not be immediately reached for comment. This story will be updated if a comment becomes available.