CAIR-Chicago Welcomes EEOC Decree on Muslim Worker Discrimination Claims

 

CAIR-Chicago Welcomes EEOC Decree on Muslim Workers’ Discrimination Claims

Three Muslim employees alleged hostile work environment, unjust firing from Tinley Park Cadillac dealership

(Chicago, 6/25/2014) – The Chicago chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) today welcomed a consent decree between the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a Tinley Park Cadillac dealership in the case of three Muslim workers the civil right organization has been representing. The dealership employees allege that they suffered a hostile work environment at Rizza Cadillac for two years and were eventually unjustly fired.

In a lawsuit filed on September 18, 2013, the EEOC alleged that Adam Adawy, Medhat Adawy, and Mohammed El-Hajjami were subjected to harassment from managers at the Rizza Cadillac dealership from January 2007 through November 2009 in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The harassment allegedly included the regular use of offensive slurs, including “terrorist,” “sand ni**er,” and “Hezbollah,” as well as mocking and insulting references to the Quran and the manner in which Muslims pray.

The consent decree enters an injunction barring Rizza Cadillac from engaging in any employment practice that discriminates against employees on the basis of national origin or religion, or retaliating against those who report such discrimination; mandates the payment of $100,000 in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs; requires posting a notice at the dealership regarding the lawsuit and how to report complaints to the EEOC; ensures that all employees will attend anti-discrimination training annually; and provides that the EEOC will monitor Rizza Cadillac’s efforts to comply with Title VII over the next two years.

CAIR-Chicago filed additional individual claims on behalf of the employees based on their discharges from the dealership, and represented the employees to reach a resolution in the case.

“We are pleased with how the EEOC and the parties were able to amicably resolve this matter,” said CAIR-Chicago Litigation Director Kevin Vodak.  “The consent decree not only affords relief for the victims but institutes substantial measures in an attempt to prevent any discrimination or harassment in the future.”

All three employees claimed that they experienced extreme harassment primarily from George Benzing, who was the dealership’s finance manager until 2009, when he was promoted to general manager. According to the employees, both Joe Rizza and Tony Rizza were fully aware of Benzing’s harassing treatment, but they elected to promote him rather than take appropriate action.

Medhat Adawy worked at the Rizza dealerships for approximately 20 years, including as a sales manager beginning in 1999. Medhat alleged that Joe Rizza would transfer him to another dealership or terminate his employment whenever Joe Rizza took over the management of a dealership at which he was working.  According to another manager, Joe Rizza expressed that he did not want any Arab Muslim managers working at the dealerships he directly managed.

Medhat’s son, Adam, worked as a salesperson at the Cadillac dealership, until he was discharged by Joe Rizza during the same period when his father was fired.

Mohammed El-Hajjami was one of the top salespeople at Rizza Cadillac, where he worked for more than four years. Mohammed said that he was terminated in November 2009 for refusing to discourage another Arab former employee from withdrawing his discrimination claim against the company.

Rizza Cadillac is part of the Rizza cars conglomerate that includes eight new car franchises throughout the Chicagoland area and that sells new and used vehicles online.

CAIR-Chicago encourages any employee who faces discrimination or harassment based on religion, race, or national origin to report the incident to its civil rights department.

CAIR is 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.

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CONTACT: CAIR Litigation Director Kevin Vodak, 312-212-1520, kvodak@cair.com; CAIR Chicago Senior Communications Coordinator 312-212-1520, akaroluk@cair.com