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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Fired Muslim Can Take French Embassy to Trial

WASHINGTON (CN) - A Pakistani woman who says her supervisors at the French Embassy called her a terrorist and lectured her about birth control can take her case to trial, a federal judge ruled.

Saima Ashraf-Hassan joined the Embassy, where she managed its internship program, soon after arriving in the United States in late 2001.

After the Embassy refused to renew her contract before it expired in January 2007, she filed suit, 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.

Last year U.S. District Judge James Boasberg refused to dismiss Ashraf-Hassan's hostile work environment claim, and he refused to grant the Embassy summary judgment on Tuesday.

"Although plaintiff must meet a high bar to prove a hostile-work-environment claim, the evidence presented by Ashraf-Hassan is extreme enough to overcome summary judgment and merit a trial," the new ruling states. "Furthermore, because the harassment and her termination were carried out by her supervisors, who presumptively act on the Embassy's behalf, defendant cannot avoid liability at this stage of litigation."

According to Ashraf-Hassan's complaint, two Embassy supervisors, Dr. Christian Tual and Chantal Manes, made numerous disparaging comments about Pakistani people and Islam. She also says another colleague said, "[n]ow we hire terrorist," a statement directed at her.

Ashraf-Hassan also claims that she was referred to as a "Pashtoun," a derogatory term referring to the Taliban, and that Dr. Tual sent an email 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.

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.

In the 2012 ruling, Boasberg dismissed Ashraf-Hassan's wrongful termination claims after finding that she failed to file her charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days of the alleged activity.

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