Judge Gears Up for Trial on French Embassy Bias

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge refused to hand down sanctions on the eve of a trial where a Pakistani woman says her supervisor at the French Embassy called her a terrorist.
     Saima Ashraf-Hassan began working for the Embassy, eventually managing 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 described terrorists as “her people,” referred to her children as “dogs,” and put her in the smallest office in the building, with no computer or telephone access.
     Ashraf-Hassan also says her pregnancy announcement earned her a lecture on condoms and birth control.
     The case is slated for a bench trial before U.S. District Judge James Boasberg after he refused to grant the Embassy summary judgment in 2013.
     On Thursday, Boasberg rejected calls from both sides to sanction the other.
     Both the Embassy and its former employee each lobbed accusations of failure to preserve evidence, but Boasberg said neither showed how the evidence in question would help their case.
     “It is too early to know that now before cross-examination,” the six-page opinion concludes. “For example, the embassy believes that emails plaintiff sent to her sister do not mention any discrimination. That hardly proves discrimination did not occur, and, in any event, defendant can ask Ashraf-Hassan at trial whether she complained to her sister and, if so, why she did not retain the emails. Perhaps after such testimony, an adverse inference may be warranted, but not yet. This reasoning also applies to other emails that purportedly omit any reference to discrimination, as well as to her letter to the ambassador. Defendant can question plaintiff on these topics at trial, and, in the event her answers are unsatisfactory, it may then ask the Court to draw an adverse inference. Given this outcome, the court need not address Plaintiff’s additional argument that, aside from her emails to her sister, the Embassy at one time itself possessed all of the other emails it now requests and thus is hardly in a position to complain about their destruction.”
     Back in 2013, the judge quoted Ashraf-Hassan’s claims that two Embassy supervisors made numerous disparaging comments about Pakistani people and Islam.
     In addition to one colleague calling her as a terrorist, Ashraf-Hassan says she was referred to as a “Pashtoun,” a derogatory term referring to the Taliban, and that someone called for her to be “stuffed in a ‘cagibi,'” – a slang term for a rat hole.
     The ruling says Ashraf-Hassan was born in Pakistan and is a citizen of France.

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