CAIR-Chicago Legal Team’s recent successes

Employment Discrimination

Nearly 20% of the incidents reported to the Civil Rights Department involve Muslim employees being discriminated against in the workplace. While much of the success in this area remains confidential due to strict agreements reached with the employers, here is a small sample of recent victories, with names and specific details withheld:

  • An Arab Muslim man attempted to obtain prayer breaks at his workplace, only to be told that the company did not allow such breaks. He was disciplined for taking excessive breaks and ultimately discharged for false reasons. The Civil Rights Department assisted the man in reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution to his case.

  • An Arab Muslim man suffered discriminatory comments from coworkers, such as being called a terrorist, making fun of his name, and making derogatory comments about his appearance. The man was ultimately discharged for false reasons. The Civil Rights Department assisted the man in reaching a mutually satisfactory resolution to his case.

  • A Muslim woman who wears a hijab experienced Islamophobic comments from a doctor in the hospital where she works, such as asking if anyone called her “scarfhead,” whether she owns a goat, and if she wore a bomb under her dress. The woman reported the incidents to Human Resources and sought CAIR-Chicago’s assistance in the matter. The Civil Rights Department advised the woman of her rights and ensured that the hospital appropriately remedied the issue.

  • A South Asian Muslim man began working for a company after he was assured that he could use his lunch break to attend Friday prayer services. When the man completed training, his manager told him that he could not take a full hour break on Fridays because other employees wanted the office to close at 4:30 p.m. and the man needed to work until 5:00 p.m. to make up the lost time. The Civil Rights Department issued a demand letter to the company requesting that the man be appropriately accommodated, and the company ultimately agreed to provide sufficient time for Friday prayer breaks.
  • Citizenship Delay

    The Civil Rights Department has directly assisted more than 220 Muslim immigrants to become naturalized as U.S. citizens after facing extensive delays. This work includes facilitating resolutions to the delays with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), and filing lawsuits in federal court when necessary. Here are some of their recent stories:

  • Nasser and Yaser, brothers born in Yemen, became lawful permanent residents of the U.S. in approximately 2005. Looking to establish better opportunities for themselves and their families, Nasser and Yaser obtained employment in Illinois and successfully met the requirements for U.S. citizenship in 2010. Despite following the procedures required by USCIS, passing the tests for citizenship on their first attempts in 2010, neither Nasser nor Yaser were awarded citizenship. In 2012, they reported the situation to the Civil Rights Department, which secured citizenship for the brothers by early 2013. Nasser and Yaser are delighted with the decisions, and they are working on securing U.S. residency for their families who remain in Yemen.

  • Atmane, a man born in Morocco, resided in the U.S. for ten years before seeking citizenship in 2006. After his application was delayed for more than three years, Atmane decided to seek legal assistance from CAIR-Chicago. The Civil Rights Department filed a formal complaint in 2010 in an attempt to end the delay in granting Atmane citizenship. USCIS responded to this complaint by ultimately denying Atmane’s application, contending that he never was actually awarded legal permanent status. Litigation Director Kevin Vodak helped resolve Atmane’s case through a formal hearing in which Atmane was deemed fully eligible for naturalization, and he was sworn in as a U.S. citizen on May 22, 2012. Atmane remains very grateful for the Civil Rights Department’s victory over USCIS’ bureaucracy, and he remains committed to supporting CAIR-Chicago.

  • Ibrahim, a Palestinian man, came to the U.S. on a student visa in 1990. After securing permanent residency in 2008, Ibrahim applied for citizenship in 2011 due to his marriage to a U.S. citizen. In September 2011, Ibrahim passed the tests for citizenship but was told that no decision could be made on his application. The USCIS officer involved referred to Ibrahim’s failure to complete Special Registration, a program adopted soon after 9/11 which required all non-immigrant men from Muslim countries to report to USCIS offices or face deportation. The Special Registration program was officially disbanded in April 2011, but its effects on immigrants seeking benefits remains problematic. Ibrahim sought CAIR-Chicago’s legal assistance in May 2012, and the Civil Rights Department filed a formal complaint in August 2012. Based on this assistance, Ibrahim was naturalized as a U.S. citizen on September 25, 2012.

  • Citizenship delay persists as is a prominent issue in the American Muslim community, and CAIR-Chicago continuously strives to resolves as many of these cases as possible.

    Sensitivity Trainings

    The Civil Rights Department receives many complaints from Muslim individuals who face Islamophobic comments and behavior from their employers, teachers, and businesses. While some of these interactions may not rise to the level of legal action, CAIR-Chicago provides a remedy that ensures a proper resolution – Sensitivity Training. The Civil Rights Department created a formal mechanism to dispel ignorance of Islam and stereotypes of the Muslim community. Recent examples of this training include:

  • In March 2012, Staff Attorney Rabya Khan and former Communications Coordinator Aymen Abdel Halim conducted trainings for a transportation provider after a Muslim customer faced problems with the company.

  • In 2012, Staff Attorney Rabya Khan conducted extensive training at a school district after a Muslim teacher experienced harassing comments from a coworker.

  • In February 2013, Staff Attorney Rabya Khan conducted training at a business after a Muslim customer was labeled a “terrorist” by an employee.

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