(SACRAMENTO, CA, 1/5/2015) — The Sacramento Valley office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV) today announced the filing of a lawsuit against the State of California and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
According to the lawsuit, Elsiddig Elhindi, an African-American Muslim who began working for the CDCR in 2002, has been subjected to severe and pervasive harassment from his co-workers and supervisors based on his religion, race and national origin for more than five years.
In early 2006, Elhindi began working at California State Prison-Sacramento (CSP-Sacramento), where he remained through September 2014. After his co-workers learned that Elhindi was a practicing Muslim – as he would openly perform his religiously mandated daily prayers while at work – his co-workers and supervisors subjected him to severe and pervasive harassment.
His co-workers constantly alluded to him being a "terrorist," mocked Islam and its teachings, mocked his accent, and used racially derogatory terms in his presence. Elhindi reported the behavior to supervisors on multiple occasions, but the harassment did not stop.
Elhindi ultimately filed charges with both the CDCR's internal Equal Employment Opportunity division and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Elhindi's co-workers and supervisors learned of the complaints and retaliated against him with increased harassment and actions that jeopardized his safety while on duty.
"While we understand most work environments come with some level of joking and personal banter, employers must protect employees who become subjected to severe and pervasive harassment by their co-workers," said CAIR-California's Northern California Civil Rights Coordinator Brice Hamack. "When the State of California and the CDCR failed to protect Mr. Elhindi from harassment based on his religion, race and national origin, as well as from retaliation for seeking protection against such harassment, they violated his civil rights."
Hamack added: "In California, a state plagued by prison population issues, guards frequently find themselves in situations surrounded by dozens if not hundreds of inmates who often exhibit violent behavior. Thus it is imperative that guards develop a strong level of trust and comradery. In spite of this, Mr. Elhindi's co-workers engaged in a pattern of harassing behavior over many years that destroyed this trust, jeopardized his safety, and ultimately caused him extreme physical and emotional distress."
CAIR-SV is an office of CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.