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AT&T ordered to pay $5 million in religious discrimination case

A recent workplace discrimination suit involving AT&T should be a reminder to employees in Greenbelt that they do not have to tolerate religious intolerance at work. The company has been ordered to pay more than $5 million to a Muslim woman who was harassed on the job for years.

Last Thursday, the woman was awarded $5 million in punitive damages as well as $120,000 in lost wages and actual damages. The award has been reported to be the largest jury verdict ever for workplace discrimination in Missouri, where the case took place. However, she will not likely receive the entire amount of the award because state law caps discrimination awards at five times actual damages plus legal fees.

When the AT&T employee converted to Islam in 2005, she was shocked and appalled by the way her coworkers and supervisor began treating her. According to the lawsuit, they called her a "towel head" and a "terrorist." The woman said that she reached a breaking point in 2008 when her boss actually ripped her head scarf off, exposing her hair.

The woman told the media that before she converted to Islam, none of her coworkers at AT&T ever cared about her religious beliefs.

The woman worked at AT&T in Kansas City for 10 years as a fiber optics network builder. She was fired from the $70,000-a-year job after enduring religious discrimination for three years.

AT&T has faced religious intolerance claims in Arkansas as well. In 2009, the company was ordered to pay $1.3 million to two former employees when they were fired for attending a Jehovah's Witnesses event.

AT&T has said it will appeal the ruling.

Source: Associated Press, "AT&T to pay Muslim woman $5M in harassment case," May 5, 2012

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