RICHMOND, Va. (CN) - The 4th Circuit cleared the way for a former Sunbelt Rentals worker to take his Maryland employer to trial for allegedly discriminating against him based on his Islamic faith in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"(T)he event that shook the foundations of our buildings did not shake the premise of our founding - that here, in America, there is no heretical faith," Judge Wilkinson wrote.
Reversing summary judgment for Sunbelt, the appeals court found enough evidence to support a claim that Clinton Ingram "suffered severe and pervasive religious harassment in violation of Title VII."
Ingram was hired as a truck driver one month after 9/11 and was fired him in 2003. During that time, he claims he endured a "steady stream" of degrading comments and religious slurs, including names such as "Taliban," "towel head," "Bin Laden," sun nigger" and "fake ass Muslim want-to-be turbine (sic) wearing ass."
Co-workers allegedly made fun of his traditional Muslim dress, challenged his patriotism and insinuated he was a terrorist.
Managers looked into his complaints and decided that the allegations were not religion-based. "Clinton's performance and personality are the only cause for problems," one manager reported.
The district court ruled for Sunbelt in December 2006, finding that Ingram's accusations were not severe or pervasive enough to establish a hostile work environment.
The appeals court disagreed and cited pranks co-workers pulled on Ingram that seemed to indicate anti-Islam sentiment, such as hiding his timecard while he was at congregational prayer.
"In light of the extensive, explicitly religious harassment by the same co-workers, a reasonable jury could infer that other harassing incidents were also motivated by a disdain for Ingram's faith."
The court remanded with directions that the case proceed to trial.
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