August 02, 2002
Hospital Sued for Post-9/11 Firing
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>Pakistani native Shiraz Syed is suing a Chicago hospital, claiming that his firing after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was premised on his Muslim faith and Pakistani citizenship.
Syed worked at the hospital admitting patients until a patient complained that he made anti-American comments and displayed a photo of Osama bin Laden on his computer.
Syed was told to go home on Sept. 21 and was notified by mail a week later that he had been terminated for misuse of the Internet, inappropriate conduct and "engaging in disruptive and discourteous behavior," the Chicago Tribune reports.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court, states that employees who are neither Pakistani nor Muslim display similar behavior without reprimand.
Dan Wolf, Syed's attorney, said the hospital overreacted to Syed's comments, and that they were "non-combative and non-hostile" towards the United States, according to the Tribune. Wolf refused to disclose the exact nature of the comments.
Wolf also said the picture that the patient saw was probably CNN's home page.
Syed is a computer networking student at DePaul University and was hoping to join the hospital's information technology department after graduation, Wolf told the Tribune.
While Hussein Ibish, the communications director for the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, refused to comment directly on Syed's suit, he did say that there has been an increasing number of job discrimination cases involving Arabs and other people of Middle Eastern descent since Sept. 11.
Ibish also said that Syed would need to show that he was targeted expressly because of his religion or ethnicity, rather than his political views, the Tribune reports.
"He would have to demonstrate that if a white male had said the same thing, he would not be fired," Ibish told the Tribune.
Syed's lawsuit seeks back pay and damages for "severe emotional distress and mental anguish," as well as punitive damages. The Civil Rights Act allows for a maximum of $300,000 in punitive and compensatory damages, Wolf said. No hearing date has been set.
The hospital refused to comment to the Tribune on the suit, but a spokesperson said the hospital employs many Muslims and Pakistanis.