Hawaiian Telcom, the state's biggest communications provider, is under fire for having allegedly fired an Iranian-born Muslim on the basis of his religion.
Saeed Khosravi-Babadi claims that Vito Nozza, Hawaiian Telcom's director of solutions engineering, mocked him over his accent. The victim also claims he was given a less-than-pleasant nickname by the same man: “The Mad Iranian.”
According to the suit, Khosravi-Babadi also witnessed Nozza making derogatory comments about Muslims close to his work station. One of the comments the boss made was about President Donald Trump's anti-Muslim musings during the 2016 campaign.
“[Nozza] thought then-candidate [Trump] was right and that the United States should drop a bomb on the Middle East to kill all the Muslim terrorists,” the suit alleges.
Under his old boss, Khosravi-Babadi's suit claims, the victim was allowed to grow and receive raises based on his performance, but under Nozza, Khosravi-Babadi was assigned tasks he wasn't trained or hired to do, putting him “in a position to fail.”
Once he told Nozza he was uncomfortable working with unfamiliar technology, his boss allegedly yelled at him, calling him ungrateful. After being put on a job performance improvement program, he was then fired.
Due to the stress caused by the way he was treated and because of the “verbal abuse” the victim suffered, making him feel he was being harassed on “religious and ethnic” basis, he felt the work environment was a toxic one, which violates federal civil rights law as well as state laws that protect employees from workplace discrimination.
While a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was investigated, and the company alleges that no violation was found, Khosravi-Babadi's lawsuit is seeking damages.
Mia Obciana, Khosravi-Babadi's attorney, said that “despite Hawaii generally being a very accepting place, there are still prejudices to be found here. There’s still racism everywhere, it’s not isolated to the mainland.”
Unfortunately, Obciana is right. But hopefully, this suit will help to inspire others to speak out if they are targeted in their workplace or if they see minorities being targeted over their origin or religion.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Youssef Boudlal