Photo from U.S. District CourtA former Bath Iron Works employee is suing the company claiming he was subjected to harassment and discrimination because he is Muslim and Palestinian. According to documents submitted in U.S. District Court, this Afghanistan flag, given to BIW by the U.S. Marine Corps for the company’s support of the United Way and Toys for Tots, continues to hang “in plain view” in the main walkway at BIW despite being “decimated with hate graffiti

Photo from U.S. District CourtA former Bath Iron Works employee is suing the company claiming he was subjected to harassment and discrimination because he is Muslim and Palestinian. According to documents submitted in U.S. District Court, this Afghanistan flag, given to BIW by the U.S. Marine Corps for the company’s support of the United Way and Toys for Tots, continues to hang “in plain view” in the main walkway at BIW despite being “decimated with hate graffiti” including the words “Devils” and “kill them,” and a drawing of a bomb over the mosque in the center of the flag.

By Beth Brogan

Bangor Daily News

BRUNSWICK

A former Bath Iron Works employee who says he was harassed, routinely spat at by other employees and subjected to hate speech over a number of years because he is of Palestinian descent and a Muslim has filed suit in U.S. District Court claiming the company violated his civil rights. The suit also alleges that the defense contractor allowed an “anti-Muslim culture” to become ingrained at its facilities.

Husam D. Abed initially filed suit in Massachusetts in November, but U.S. District Court Justice Rya W. Zobel transferred the case to federal court in Maine on Thursday, according to court documents.

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that from the time Abed began working as a designer at BIW in 2007 until he took a leave of absence and left employment last year, he “faced severe discrimination and harassment based solely on his religion, race and national origin,” Abed’s attorney, Shaun M. Khan, wrote in a November complaint.

Khan claims that Abed worked in a culture of routine hate speech that was not prevented by the company.

According to court documents, an Afghanistan flag given to BIW by the U.S. Marine Corps for the company’s support of the United Way and Toys for Tots — which continues to hang “in plain view” in the mail walkway at BIW’s Hardings facility — was “decimated with hate graffiti,” marked with the words “Devils” and “kill them,” and with a drawing of a bomb over the mosque in the center of the flag.

The suit alleges that Abed had to walk by the flag, which had graffiti “that degrades his religion on a daily basis.” It also claims that he witnessed multiple BIW employees spit on the flag.

“Moreover, the sickening graffiti was in plain view of all supervisors and managers at BIW and was ignored as the flag still hangs today at the Hardings Facility at BIW,” the suit claims. “This is a prime example of the anti-Muslim culture ingrained at BIW.”

During the years he was employed at the shipyard, Abed also was “routinely spit at by other employees who he had never spoken with,” the suit claims, continuing, “It was clear to Abed that people were doing this to him because of his religion and national origin.”

One co-worker and a supervisor in particular allegedly targeted Abed, “spewing hate speech” near their cubicles, including such comments as “Palestinian[s] are terrorists.”

The suit claims “it was widely known throughout BIW that [the employee] is intolerant toward Muslims, as he made clear to anyone who would listen that he was prejudiced against any and all Muslims.”

During one alleged incident in February 2014, while Abed and two co-workers discussed the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia, Abed attempted to explain the history of the region and used the word “Muslim,” prompting the co-worker to rush at Abed and insist he return to work.

Abed claims in the suit that it was one of many incidents that caused him to fear for his safety.

Emails included with court documents on the suit indicate that Abed repeatedly tried to speak with his supervisor about what he perceived to be ongoing harassment and his fear for his safety. During one meeting, his supervisor allegedly said, “What do you want me to do? Do you want me to discipline him? We do not have anyone to take his place and take care of the team.”

During a subsequent meeting, the supervisor allegedly told Abed, “This could put my job in danger.”

Among other allegations, the suit states that information technology workers told Abed it seemed his personal computer account was being singled out and compromised.

Abed left work under the Family Medical Leave Act, according to documents, and then resigned “due to emotional distress.”

Amy Snierson, Maine Human Rights Commission executive director, said Friday that Abed did not file a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission. However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigated the case and found no probable cause to believe discrimination occurred, and the Maine Human Rights Commission — as is common — adopted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission finding, according to Snierson.

In April 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Boston issued Abed a right-to-sue letter. Khan filed suit in November in Massachusetts, but attorney Jonathan Shapiro argued on behalf of BIW that Massachusetts was not the appropriate forum for the case.

In a motion for dismissal, Shapiro also argued that while Abed claimed, among other violations, breach of contract, BIW’s contract is with his union, the Bath Marine Draftsmen’s Union, and not with Abed, and that Abed failed to exhaust the grievance and arbitration procedures agreed upon by the union and the company.

Abed’s attorney, BIW spokesman Matt Wickenheiser and a representative of the union declined Friday to comment on the case.

Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Friday that the allegations didn’t surprise him, and that the country is in the midst of “a spike — at a minimum — in anti-Muslim rhetoric.”

“I’ve seen this time and time again over the years,” Hooper said. “ I can’t speak to these allegations, but they fit into a pattern we’ve seen consistently.”

No court date had been set as of Friday morning

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