WASHINGTON (CN) – A Muslim firefighter whose boss told him he had to pick between his job and his religion won’t be able to sue the city for religious discrimination, but his claims that the city retaliated against him can proceed, a federal judge ruled.
The late Tarick Ali, who is suing through his personal representative Monica Ali, says his commanding officer, Michael Malinowski, forced him and his best friend to choose between their jobs and their religion after an incident in which they were late for a meeting because they were praying.
As a Muslim, Ali prayed five times a day.
He also claimed that his boss indirectly threatened his best friend with termination if he filed a report on the incident and passed it up through the chain of command.
According to the ruling, an Equal Employment Opportunity official heard Ali’s complaints and recommended that several of his superiors, including Malinowski, attend workforce development courses.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. dismissed Ali’s claims of religious discrimination, finding that the District had not subjected Ali to adverse action.
“Malinowski was certainly criticizing Ali’s performance (in a particularly insensitive fashion), but criticism from a supervisor that does not affect a subordinate’s employment status or opportunities is not adverse action,” Kennedy wrote.
On the flip side, the judge denied the District’s motion for summary judgment on Ali’s retaliation claim, agreeing that the superior’s alleged vow to punish Ali’s co-worker would constitute a threat meant to silence his complaint.