American Airlines Attendant: Coworkers Called Me 'Terrorist' For Years

A Muslim flight attendant suffered harassment for years, but instead of having his complaints properly addressed, American Airlines put him on a “watch list.”

It looks as if United Airlines isn't the only airline going through some legal trouble over a serious case of abuse.

American Airlines has been named in a lawsuit after Muslim flight attendant Farkhan Mahmood Shah alleged that his coworkers repeatedly called him a terrorist for years, reported. Hoping to see an end to the harassment, he referred to company officials to make a complaint. But instead of helping him, the company put him on a "watch list," and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents knocked on his door.

Shah, a man of Pakistani descent, alleges he was targeted for religious and ethnic harassment after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Claiming that the company failed to act accordingly after the then-employee filed a complaint, Shah was left with no other recourse but to file a lawsuit against American Airlines.

Shah was hired in 1999 as a flight attendant, but after the deadly attack against the World Trade Center in New York City, coworkers used a series of offensive names. The suit alleges that at times, he was called part of Hezbollah or Taliban. Coworkers also allegedly referred to him as a “terrorist” oftentimes. In one occasion, Shah recounts, one attendant attempted to convert him from Islam to Christianity.

Claiming that “[American Airlines] does not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” spokesperson Matt Miller said the firm is reviewing Shah's lawsuit.

In 2008, Shah had had enough, taking his complaints to his superiors. After reporting the harassment, he noticed he was repeatedly marked erroneously for tardiness and for missing work.

In 2013, the complaint escalated, making its way to the company's New York human resources office. He also told American Airlines his record should be fixed, but the record errors were never taken back.

In 2014, Shah and coworkers were talking about 9/11 when one of his colleagues said, “it was the Muslims.” Adding fuel to the fire, the colleague allegedly added, “Muslims are evil.”

Shah responded that, according to a video he had seen, ISIS was created by the CIA. Shah also added that some claim that 9/11 was an “inside job.” But despite his colleague's offensive remarks, only Shah's response was reported to his supervisors. Weeks after this exchange, Shah was placed on a “watch list” by American Airlines, and FBI agents showed up at his door.

For the next two years, harassment continued, even as his complaints were still being reviewed by different human resource representatives.

Finally in 2016, Shah filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In less than two weeks, FBI agents showed up at his doorstep once again. During this second visit, he was asked if he planned on hurting anyone.

Earlier in 2017, Shah received a Right to Sue letter from EEOC.

The suit names American Airlines and the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, and it seeks damages, attorney fees, and additional relief. 

It's incredibly important that this suit is seeing the light of day as many members of the public believe that there isn't real religious-based discrimination in the United States. Perhaps now, more victims will start speaking out. 

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters

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