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Monday, July 15, 2024 | Back issues
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Muslim-Bias Case Against Cook Co. Revived

CHICAGO (CN) - The Seventh Circuit revived claims that the Cook County Circuit Court discriminated against a Muslim employee who wears a head scarf.

Though Fozyia Huri worked for the court as a child-care attendant since 2000, she claims that her supervisor, Sylvia McCullum, ratcheted up the Christian rhetoric in 2009.

Huri said McCullum previously spoke generally about being a good Christian - an honor she credited for herself, certain colleagues and the chief judge.

In 2009, McCullum allegedly described one employee as a "good Christian" in contrast to the purportedly "evil" Huri.

Huri said McCullum also began faksely criticizing her and subjecting her to different rules than she did for Huri's co-workers. McCullum also allegedly made the attendants hold hands for a prayer in which she invoked Jesus' name.

In May 2010, about six months before Huri was transferred to the court reporter's office, Huri filed the first of three complaints with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

Huri claimed that her supervisors in the new office treated her just as badly as McCullum did.

She filed a federal complaint in 2011, but the court dismissed her case for failure to state a claim.

In reviving Huri's case Thursday, however, the Third Circuit said the trial court's analysis was "replete with error."

"It may be that Huri, once discovery has run its course, cannot produce evidence to survive summary judgment," Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan wrote for a three-person panel. "But that question can safely be postponed to another day. Defendants have fair notice of Huri's claims and the grounds upon which those claims rest."

Der-Yeghiayan called it "beyond dispute" that Huri's EEOC charges were a protective activity and the actions against her at work "would certainly cause a reasonable worker to think twice about complaining about discrimination - that's all it takes in the retaliation context."

The court also found qualified immunity "improper where, as here, the asserted right is clearly established at the time the conduct occurred," and "Huri's Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from a hostile work environment was well-established."

Huri's attorney Kamran Memon said his client still works for Cook County and was transferred to the Office of the Chief Judge during the appeals process, where she is "being treated very well."

At the same time, "she's very pleased that she's finally going to get her day in court," Memon said in an interview.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office declined to issue a comment on pending litigation.

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