A Muslim woman filed a discrimination suit Tuesday against a Sacramento company, alleging she was fired because she wanted to wear a religious head scarf on the job.

Zaylanin Southavilay, 30, who is of Vietnamese ancestry, is suing National Credit Acceptance, a debt collection agency where she worked for 17 days in September.

The suit was filed in Sacramento Superior Court by the San Francisco-based Asian Law Caucus and the Rosen, Bien and Galvan law firm representing Southavilay.

An employee at National Credit Acceptance who declined to give her name said Tuesday the company was unaware of the lawsuit and could not comment.

Southavilay was first hired as a debt collector and then offered a job as a human resources assistant, according to the suit.

The promotion was retracted, the suit says, and she was dismissed because supervisors told she had to choose between working at the company and wearing a hijab, a religious scarf.

“I felt really discriminated against,” said Southavilay, a U.S. citizen whose parents are Cham, a Vietnamese ethnic minority.

“I want employers to know that they can’t do that,” she said, referring to the choice she allegedly was given.

Asian Law Caucus attorney Shirin Sinnar said religious garb cannot be banned at work unless it poses a safety risk or other specific hazards or hardship.

The suit asks for compensatory and punative damages and an order prohibiting the company from banning religious attire.


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