Two Metro Detroit Muslims are seeking help from advocacy groups amid claims they recently faced discrimination at school and work.
In one case, the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter this week filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Sheraton Detroit Novi Hotel on behalf of a Senegalese Muslim who contends he was unjustly fired for taking prayer breaks.
The complaint alleges the hotel’s human resources department had authorized the man to stop working for 5-7 minutes so he could perform his obligatory midday prayer. He continued the arrangement for more than a year but four days after the HR department manager left the role in August 2015, the Muslim employee was fired without notice over the breaks, according to the filing.
“The termination of the complainant’s employment for performing prayers in accordance with his sincerely held religious belief, despite a religious accommodation having been in place, is discriminatory and a clear violation of his constitutional rights,” said Lena Masri, CAIR-MI legal director.
Sheraton is part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. Representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Meanwhile, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Michigan Regional Office is seeking a hate crime probe after a Muslim student at Cranbrook Schools allegedly was harassed there twice on the same day last month.
The 17-year-old senior claims she was with her mother at the Bloomfield Hills campus on May 25 when a group drove by and shouted “a barrage of insults including ‘ISIS,’ ‘raghead’ and ‘terrorist,’ ” ADC officials said in a statement Thursday. “The group of men also verbally harassed the victim’s mother and screamed racist epithets at her while they repeatedly warned her to ‘go back to your country, or we will blow your (expletive) up.’ ”
Less than two hours later, the teen allegedly was targeted again when a cluster of males “pushed the victim repeatedly in an attempt to forcefully restrain her while she was jogging on campus grounds,” ADC Michigan said.
The girl and her relatives filed a report with Bloomfield Hills police the next day but say Cranbrook officials failed to immediately ensure the teen’s safety, probe the incidents further or notify students, ADC Michigan Director Fatina Abdrabboh said. “They concluded they could no longer communicate with the school on their own because the school was being biased. … The victim and her family just want answers.”
In an email to The Detroit News, Cranbrook Schools communications director Clayton Matthews wrote: “We are surprised and disappointed to hear these inflammatory allegations that are inconsistent with the ongoing police and school investigation. Cranbrook Schools is a diverse community, enrolling students from 22 countries and from every walk of life. We have long celebrated the value of diversity in all of its forms and absolutely do not tolerate acts of harassment or discrimination. In order to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation, we can make no further comment at this time.”
Bloomfield Hills police confirmed they received a complaint of ethnic intimidation at the campus last month and are investigating. Other details were not released.