(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/13/15) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) announced today that it has filed an employment discrimination lawsuit on behalf of a Maryland Muslim worker against Advance Auto Parts, Inc., the nationâ€™s largest retailer of automotive replacement parts, accessories, and services.
The lawsuit, which alleges violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland on behalf of Aamir Hamid Cooper, a 23-year-old African-American Muslim and former Sales Clerk at Advance Autoâ€™s retail location in Bowie, Md.Â
â€œAdvance Auto personnel systematically created and perpetuated an intolerable work environment for Mr. Cooper by subjecting him to unfair and unequal working conditions as well as relentless attacks on his Islamic faith and racial identity,â€ said CAIR Staff Attorney Maha Sayed. â€œThe nature of disparaging remarks regarding Mr. Cooperâ€™s race and religion is an unfortunate reflection of the extent and pattern of hostility that many Muslims and African Americans face today. Such behavior is unacceptable and illegal in the American workplace under federal civil rights law, which is based on fundamental anti-discrimination and equal opportunity principles.â€
According to the complaint, Advance Auto supervisory personnel subjected Cooper to severe and pervasive harassment, disparate treatment and a series of adverse employment actions because of his race and religion throughout the entire duration of his employment.Â
Advance Auto routinely removed Cooper from the work schedule without notice or explanation, denied his requests for accommodation to attend Muslim congregational prayers on Fridays, provided him with the least amount of hours despite his seniority and strong performance record, and refused to provide Cooper with promotional opportunities and pay raises, which were regularly granted to other non-Muslim, non-African American employees.
AdvanceÂ AutoÂ personnelÂ with supervisory and managerial authority over Cooper repeatedly singled him out to perform the most menial and labor-intensive work, including cleaning the store bathrooms and shelves as well as installing car batteries. In one instance, a manager ordered Cooper to install six car batteries consecutively in more than 100 degree weather while employees who sold the batteries were available, in violation of store policy.
In addition, the lawsuit states that Advance Auto supervisory personnel created and failed to correct a hostile work environment for Cooper by subjecting him to relentless derogatory and bigoted statements regarding his Islamic faith.
During a staff appreciation lunch, an Advance Auto supervisor turned to Cooper and loudly asserted, â€œI should spit on my hand and touch the slices so you canâ€™t eat until you pray to your so-called god, â€˜Allah.â€ The Advance Auto supervisor then contended, â€œIf this was jail, I would be in charge of you, boy! And you would be eating last and sleeping on the bottom bunk. You need to know your role and know who stands where in the food chain!â€ Advance Auto staff repeatedly erupted in laughter in response to the supervisorâ€™s statements about Cooper.
Advance Auto personnel also used the â€œn-wordâ€ loosely,Â accused Cooper of building a bomb when he was discussing science as a college major and ridiculed him for commenting on the possibility of becoming president, stating, â€œYeah, that would be the day, a Muslim president! The whole country would always be in a state of emergency!â€
The hostile environment at Advance Auto was so toxic and pervasive that one of Cooperâ€™s supervisors brought a gun to the workplace and later threatened to kill him.
As a result of Advance Autoâ€™s pervasive and malicious harassment, Cooper was forced to seek therapy for his severe emotional distress and suffered a dramatic increase of sickle cell crises, which can be aggravated by stressful conditions.
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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CONTACT: CAIR Civil Rights Staff Attorney Maha Sayed, 202-640-4935, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Civil Rights Litigation Director Jenifer Wicks, 202-640-4934, email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR Communications Coordinator Nabeelah Naeem, 202-341-4171, email@example.com