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Muslim EMT's suit says Detroit supervisor targeted him

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
CAIR Michigan has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Muslim EMT who says he was unfairly targeted by his supervising captain.

Detroit — A Muslim civil rights organization filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Detroit and its Fire Department on Thursday on behalf of a Muslim paramedic, claiming he was unfairly targeted by his captain because of his religion.

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations filed the complaint on behalf of Alaa Saade, who alleges that his EMT captain had a known “hit list” of minority employees to discipline with the intent they would be terminated, according to the lawsuit.

Detroit Fire EMS Capt. Tim Goodman was fired in 2017 for posting hundreds of racist, Islamophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic comments on Facebook, but after an arbitration hearing, he was reinstated in December 2017, CAIR officials said, adding that Goodman has since been promoted twice and continues to supervise Saade.

A federal lawsuit against Detroit Fire Capt. Tim Goodman alleges he shared memes with racist and Islamophobic content on Facebook.

Goodman took pictures of people in Detroit that were captioned with racist and Islamophobic comments intended to harass, embarrass and humiliate, the lawsuit says.

Goodman posted photos of restaurants, including a Leo's Coney Island on Ford Road in Dearborn, showing a worker adding halal to the signage, according to exhibits filed with the suit, which says he wrote: "They got their last dime from me."

Saade was disciplined for taking a day off to take his sick child to the hospital and again for an incident involving three others, the lawsuit says. Saade was the only one questioned about the incident and had a letter of reprimand placed in his employment file for two years, according to the complaint.

"What happened is so overt," said CAIR attorney Amy Doukoure. "He posted these comments on Facebook and he disciplined only our client for something four people were involved in. It was clear he was targeting our client."

Doukoure said Saade also was disciplined for notifying his commander of specific needs, including utilizing a specific respirator for CPR due to his traditional Islamic beard, getting time off on Friday afternoons to attend prayers, and working nights during Ramadan to accommodate low energy and stamina caused by daytime fasting.

CAIR filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the city in 2017. In April, the commission determined Saade's rights were violated when "he was disciplined due to his national origin and religion." The commission said Saade may proceed with a lawsuit in federal court.

In a statement to The Detroit News, the city said it does not comment on pending litigation.

"With that said, the city respects people of all faiths and takes all complaints about religious discrimination very seriously," Lawrence Garcia, corporation counsel for Detroit said. "The outcome of this dispute should be determined by the merits of the case, and the city trusts the system will do justice by all parties."

Of the hundreds of posts by Goodman on Facebook, dozens solely targeted Muslims and Arabs, Doukoure said, adding that CAIR continues to receive complaints from city EMT workers of all backgrounds.

"We've received multiple complaints involving Captain Goodman, starting from when this happened in 2017 to as recent as 30 days ago," she said. 

"Since the first day, the city has not reached out to us for anything," Doukoure said. "Not even when the EEOC determined a finding of discrimination, they never reached out to rectify the situation."

Doukoure said Saade has worked as an EMT in Detroit for several years and loves it. 

"He wants to serve the city, and it’s been tough," she said. "Someone who is being discriminated against shouldn’t have to find other work."

CAIR officials hope the city will enact new policies, including religious and diversity training, to improve work conditions for employees of all faiths.

"The city holds a public trust to ensure that its citizens and workers feel safe and included, no matter their faith, race or nationality," Doukoure said. "In this case, the city and the fire department have failed in their public trust by failing to take action when faced with evidence that Captain Goodman allowed his bigotry and racism to influence his workplace interactions with his subordinates."
Twitter: @SarahRahal_