The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has weighed in on touchy, high profile allegations of New York religious employment discrimination related to the case of Debbie Almontaser, a former Principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arabic-language public school.
The case has a complex back story, so put your reading glasses on and settle in:
Ms. Almontaser took over as principal of the dual language academy in 2007. Shortly after she took the helm, however, conservative opponents began to brand her as a militant Islamist. She denied the allegations, and independent sources confirmed her moderate political temperament. Nevertheless, a group called Stop the Madrassa Coalition formed and claimed that she was linked to a campaign to sell shirts bearing the slogan “Intifada NYC” — a reference to a militant Islamic point of view.
Concerned, the Department of Education urged her to do an interview with the New York Post to put the allegations to rest. But the Post took Ms. Almontaser’s interview out of context and quoted her “incorrectly and misleadingly” (according to federal judges who later ruled on a lawsuit she brought against The Post for doing this).
Nevertheless, the principal’s connection with the Intifada tee-shirts sparked a wave of outrage that eventually led to her ouster as principal. She was moved to a subordinate position, which eventually disappeared. She sought legal action against the New York Department of Education for religious discrimination, and now that the EEOC has finally weighed in, this case could become even more newsworthy. The EEOC ruled that the DOE “succumbed to the very bias that the creation of the school was intended to dispel” and called for a resolution for Ms. Almontaser to get her job back as well as get $300,000 along with back pay and compensation for legal fees.
If you or a family member or friend has been on the receiving end of religious discrimination at the workplace, you may benefit from the counsel of an experienced employment discrimination attorney. Call (212) 688-5640 or visit www.jhllp.com to connect with the attorneys of Joseph & Kirschenbaum. Our attorneys are experienced in labor law, and we’ve successfully handled many matters related to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wage & hour violations.