The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued the Worcester Art Museum, alleging that it unlawfully fired a naturalised Afghan-American Muslim on the basis of his national origin and religion using false reasons as a pretext. In a statement, the museum said that it “denies the allegations” and “strongly disagrees with” the action taken by the EEOC.
After the 11 September terrorist attack, employee Zia Ayub was ostracised by co-workers, one of whom falsely reported him to authorities as a suspected terrorist, the EEOC says. In January the museum fired him without notice allegedly for taking too long on three separate security rounds, replacing him with a non-Muslim of neither Afghan nor Middle Eastern origin, the EEOC says. Before firing him, the museum failed to follow its “usual and customary practice of issuing oral and written warnings, or a suspension,” the EEOC says, or its practice of issuing an all-employee memo reiterating museum expectations. Mr Ayub had never previously had a disciplinary warning and received a merit raise in December 2001, the EEOC says. The museum did not investigate or take action against other security guards whose rounds took as long as Mr Ayub’s or longer, the EEOC says. The EEOC is seeking monetary and injunctive relief, including back wages and compensatory and punitive damages. The complaint states that the museum hired Mr Ayub as a part-time museum security guard in 1994, offered him full-time status in January 2000, and, to accommodate his religion, allowed him to work three 12-hour shifts per week.