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Judges Revive Attorney’s Discrimination Claim

(CN) - The 7th Circuit reinstated the discrimination claims of a Muslim business attorney who said his firm fired him in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Zafar Hasan, of Indian descent, said he was cut from projects and eventually fired from the business law department at Foley & Lardner based on his religion and national origin.

The day after the terrorist attacks, a Foley attorney purportedly overheard partner George Simon say, "those people (Muslims) don't belong here ... they should kick them all out."

During this time, Hasan published articles and appeared on television to promote his view of Islam as a peaceful religion. When he posted some of his articles on his office door, Foley partner Doug Hagerman allegedly warned him to be "careful" and "not upset any sacred cows."

Over the next year, according to the lawsuit, Hasan's superiors lost confidence in him and cut his hours. One of the partners, with whom Hasan had worked the most, reportedly felt pressured to retract the positive work evaluation he'd given Hasan.

Not long afterward, the department held a meeting and decided to fire Hasan, ostensibly for economic reasons.

He said partner Robert Vechiola described the meeting as a "sand-nigger pile on" and told Hasan it was "too bad that (Simon) and those guys took out their religious dispute in Israel on you and had you fired."

U.S. District Judge James Zagel dismissed Hasan's discrimination suit on the basis that he failed to create a "convincing mosaic" of direct or circumstantial evidence to back up his claims.

The appeals court in Chicago reversed, saying the aggregation of evidence could convince a jury otherwise.

"That 'mosaic' of evidence," Judge Ripple wrote, "together with the unresolved questions of fact, is sufficient under the direct method of proof for Mr. Hasan to survive summary judgment on his discrimination claims."

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