French Embassy Must Pay Up for Discrimination

     (CN) — Quoting a 17th century French philosopher, a federal judge saw no reason to disturb a $30,000 discrimination verdict against the French Embassy over discrepancies in the story of its legal foe.
     “Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth,” the May 6 decision states.
     U.S. District Judge James Boasberg invoked Blaise Pascal to reinforce the verdict he awarded Saima Ashraf-Hassan, a former intern coordinator at the French Embassy in the United States, this past January.
     Ashraf-Hassan, who was born in Pakistan, said she endured retaliation, workplace discrimination and harassment because of her Pakistani origin, Muslim faith and pregnancy.
     In the months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Ashraf-Hassan managed the embassy’s internship program on a probationary contract.
     Boasberg found that Chantal Manes, a white, non-Muslim supervisor, repeatedly asked Ashraf-Hassan why “your people are doing this,” in relation to terrorism.
     Details about the embassy’s handling of Ashraf-Hassan’s pregnancy remain disputed, but the worker says her announcement of the news in March 2002 resulted in a 40-minute lecture from Manes on family planning.
     Manes “said she should not be pregnant when starting a new job,” and fired Ashraf-Hassan on April 16, according to the worker’s testimony.
     While Manes does not dispute firing Ashraf-Hassan, she said it was because the worker lied about mentioning her pregnancy a month earlier. Manes said April 16 was the first time she brought up her pregnancy.
     Though this termination lasted just a week before the ambassador reinstated Ashraf-Hassan, the woman described other confrontations through the years.
     Ashraf-Hassan claims to have overheard Manes agree when an assistant said, “Now we hire terrorists.”
     Shortly before Ashraf-Hassan was terminated for good, someone showed her an email in which a supervisor referred to her as “the Pashtun.”
     The embassy claimed that it deserved a new trial based on inconsistencies in Ashraf-Hassan’s testimony but Judge Boasberg disagreed Friday.
     Despite the embassy’s focus on when Ashraf-Hassan announced her pregnancy, the judge said the woman “has never demonstrated great certainty about the date she discovered her pregnancy and told Manes about it.”
     “On the contrary, she has ‘not dispute[d] that she was confused about the date … during the course of the litigation,'” the ruling states. “As such, it is certainly not clear that she intentionally assumed one position — what defendant calls the ‘April position’ — and later changed that position at trial — adopting what defendant terms the ‘mid-March position.'”
     An attorney for Ashraf-Hassan, Katherine Atkinson with Gary M. Gilbert and Associates in Silver Spring, Md., applauded the outcome.
     “Our client was pleased, but not surprised, that Judge Boasberg again concluded that whether she became pregnant in March or April 2002 was not relevant to the outcome of the trial, and that her misremembering the exact date at different points during the many years of litigation did not call into question her credibility,” Atkinson said in an email.
     Boasberg said the embassy is attempting to rehash arguments that failed “at or before trial.”
     “Because defendant has failed to identify any clear errors in the court’s factual findings, and because no ‘manifest injustice’ or prejudice was worked on the embassy as a result of plaintiff’s testimonial inconsistency, the court will deny the two post-trial Motions currently before it,” the ruling states.
     The embassy’s attorneys — Laina Lopez with Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, and Pierre Marie-Paul Chone — did not return emails seeking comment.

%d bloggers like this: