Embassy Must Defend Discrimination Claim

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge ruled that the French Embassy in Washington may have created a hostile work environment for a Pakistani woman, but dismissed claims that she was illegally fired on other grounds because she failed to file her charges in time.



     Saima Ashraf-Hassan sued the French Embassy, claiming that, among other things, her supervisors referenced terrorists as “her people,” referred to her children as “dogs,” and put her in the smallest office in the Embassy with no computer or telephone access.
     She says they also lectured her on condoms and birth control when she told them she was pregnant.
     U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled that Ashraf-Hassan, who managed the Embassy’s internship program, failed to file her charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the alleged activity, prompting the dismissal of her wrongful termination claims.
     “Because the court finds that her termination claims were not exhausted in a timely manner, it will grant defendant’s motion as to those [counts]. Plaintiff’s remaining claims… however, which allege a hostile work environment, may proceed,” stated the judge.
     According to the ruling, Ashraf-Hassan was born in Pakistan and is a citizen of France. While employed by the French Embassy in America, she managed administrative tasks for several programs.
     Her complaint accuses two Embassy supervisors, Dr. Christian Tual and Chantal Manes, of making numerous disparaging comments about Pakistani people and Islam. She also says another colleague said, “[n]ow we hire terrorist,” a statement directed at her.
     She also claims she was referred to as a “Pashtoun,” a derogatory term referring to the Taliban, and that Dr. Tual sent an e-mail asserting that she “should be removed from her duties, have her contract terminated, and she should be ‘stuffed in a “cagibi,”‘ – a slang term for a rat hole.
     “Though a plaintiff may survive [the] motion even if ‘recovery is very remote and unlikely,’ the facts alleged in the complaint ‘must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level,'” stated Judge Boasberg.
     The judge ruled that the Ashraf-Hassan properly served the Embassy and is entitled to discovery for the hostile work environment claim.

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