Sara Lee Discrimination Case Booted From Federal

     (CN) – Sara Lee cannot assert federal jurisdiction over claims that its employees harassed a Muslim co-worker with “pictures of Osama Bin Laden’s body spattered with bullet holes,” a federal judge ruled.
     Mohamed Hugais sued Sara Lee Corp., Earthgrains Baking Cos. and Bimbo three months ago in Alameda County Superior Court. He asserted claims for discrimination and harassment based on his race, religion and national origin.
     Hugais alleged in his complaint that his coworkers called him “Ali Baba” and “Momo the Gaddafi,” and that a supervisor told him that he should “order a new drink at the bar called an Osama Bin laden,” which would be made with a “few shots and some water sprinkles.”
     Hugais also alleged that a co-worker said in front of other employees that “all fucking Arabs do nothing but ride fucking camels.”
     Though Hugais also sued his former supervisor, Marty Baker, and human resources manager Ric Diaz, the defendants removed the action to U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on the basis of fraudulent joinder.
     Hugais claimed that he had been working for the companies for four years when Baker harassed him about his employment status and asked to see his green card.
     Baker also “told plaintiff to take September 11th as his holiday, referring to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center,” according to the complaint.
     Diaz, the defendant human resources manager, allegedly answered Hugais’ complaints about his harassment by holding a meeting in which he spoke about employment lawsuits and “advised the group that they would not want to be deposed, stating that ‘depositions are not fun,’ … and that ‘attorneys can explore the details of a person’s private life.”
     In arguing for complete diversity to support federal jurisdiction, the defendants slammed the claims against Baker and Diaz as nonviable.
     U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson remanded the case back to state court Friday, noting that Hugais could defeat complete diversity by demonstrating only “one viable claim against one resident defendant.”
     “Finding that plaintiff states a harassment claim against the resident defendants, the court proceeds no further,” the eight-page opinion states.
     The defendants incorrectly argued that Baker and Diaz acted within their scope of their employment and, therefore, cannot be sued for harassment, according to the ruling.
     Baker’s alleged green card demands and remarks about taking Sept. 11 as a holiday sufficiently state a claim for harassment, the court found.
     Likewise, Diaz’s alleged comments about employment lawsuits during a meeting are sufficient.
     “There is nothing ‘necessary’ or intrinsic to ‘management’ about making derogatory comments and insinuations,” Henderson wrote.
     The judge added that “even if these actions were considered personnel management decisions, plaintiff could still use the allegations as evidence of harassment, and could still state a claim against Baker and Diaz. Plaintiff alleges a pervasive pattern of hostility,” which the individual defendants “participated in and encouraged.”

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