Lawsuit: Woman’s hijab led to job loss at west Michigan plant
A Muslim woman is suing a staffing agency and Michigan employer over claims her religious head covering led to a demotion, then termination, from a plant on the state’s west side.
According to the federal lawsuit filed this week by the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan and Ohio offices, Aaminah Ussabur said she faced complaints about her hijab, or headscarf, immediately after starting work in August as a pressure packager at an Amway manufacturing/shipping facility in Ada.
On her second day, a supervisor told Ussabur people were “complaining about your headscarf.” She also asserts in the suit that he told her the handbook didn’t allow the head covering and it sparked safety concerns.
Ussabur told the supervisor she would not remove her hijab since it was “a part of her religious obligation,” according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids. She also said to him “that if there were safety issues, she was willing to tuck in her hijab underneath her shirt.”
On her next scheduled work day, she was told “the department was being switched” and now Ussabur would be moved to another department for a “reduced 10 hours a week,” the court filing stated.
When Ussabur said she couldn’t support herself on that, company representatives offered to find her another full-time position, according to the lawsuit. But they didn’t follow up, “effectively discharging her,” CAIR officials said.
Ussabur filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which issued a notice of right to sue.
The lawsuit, which names ManpowerGroup and Amway Corp., alleges her civil rights were violated. It seeks punitive damages, back pay and lost benefits.
“The companies’ actions are clear attempts to force the plaintiff to quit her employment as a result of wearing the hijab,” said Lena Masri, legal director at CAIR’s Michigan office.
In an email to The Detroit News, Chelsey Orlikowski, a Manpower spokeswoman, wrote: “We tend to not comment on individual personnel matters.”
Amway representatives said in a statement: “We recently became aware of this filing and are currently examining it. The situation involves a matter of safety, stemming from an appropriate requirement at our pressure packaging plant that prohibits wearing anything that may get tangled in a machine.”