Troy worker says time off for religion led to demotion

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against a healthcare technology management organization after a Muslim employee said he was demoted after requesting time off for an Islamic holiday.

The federal lawsuit filed Monday claims Indiana-based TriMedx, which has an office in Troy, discriminated against Abdelrahman Yasser Hassane, a biomedical technician, by demoting him to a low-level inventory job after he asked permission to celebrate for two weeks in Egypt the Eid al-Fitr holiday in accordance with his Islamic faith.

Hassane, who lives in Wayne County, was classified as a Tech Plus One employee in a fully benefited training program and was entitled to vacation time under the company’s policy, according to the lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

After making his request in July 2014, Hassane said he was removed from the training program, transferred to Indiana and demoted to a low-level inventory job. He was placed on probation and denied a promotion and salary increase, CAIR attorneys said.

“Hassane was humiliated and ashamed to be placed into a low level job while all other non-Muslim techs hired on or about the same time as Hassane were employed as biomedical technicians,” the lawsuit stated.

A media representative for TriMedx did not immediately return a phone call Monday afternoon seeking comment.

Also named in the suit is TriMedx’s parent companies, Medxcel and Ascension, also based in Indiana.

Attorneys for Hassane are seeking punitive damages, back pay, a full year of pay he would have been prepared to earn had he received training on the same timeline as his peers and lost benefits.

“The company’s actions are clear attempts to force Mr. Hassane to quit his employment after expressing his Islamic faith for the first time in the workplace,” CAIR-MI senior staff attorney Lena Masri said in a statement Monday.

According to the lawsuit, Hassane was hired in April 2014 as a Tech Plus One to receive clinical equipment repair training. Tech Plus Ones also receive training by experienced technicians in troubleshooting and performing major repairs on complex equipment.

Eid al-Fitr is celebrated by Muslims to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. At the time of his request Hassane had accrued 82 hours of paid time off, his attorneys said. His request was honored; however, he was later required to train under another trainee who had less than one year of experience, the lawsuit stated.

According to the suit, for more than a year Hassane trained in ultrasound under another trainee. His repeated requests were denied to train in other areas, attorneys said.

On Feb. 3, 2015, a supervisor informed Hassane he was placed on three-month probation “because he had not ‘observed’ Hassane and because employees are placed on three-month probation at the commencement of employment,” the lawsuit stated.

Hassane said he told the supervisor he had been employed for almost a year and had completed his three-month probation after he was hired in April 2014. Hassane requested a raise and promotion, but was instead transferred to Indiana.

“As a direct and proximate result of defendants’ actions, Hassane has suffered emotional distress, inconvenience, lost wages and benefits, and other consequential damages,” his attorneys wrote.