Muslim Pilot Fired Due to Religion and Appearance, EEOC Says In Post- 9/11 Backlash Discrimination Suit

Posted on December 28, 2006


Muhammad Hussein fired because of religionThe U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today filed its sixth post-9/11 backlash discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act against Trans States Airlines, Inc., a regional commuter airline. EEOC alleges that Trans States discriminated against Mohammed Hussein, a pilot employed as a First Officer, because of his Islamic religious beliefs and his Arabic appearance. Mr. Hussein, who is a Pacific Islander and native of Fiji, was fired one week after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on September 18, 2001, despite an excellent work record.

Mr. Hussein filed a charge of religious, race and national origin discrimination with the EEOC in St. Louis after Trans States refused to provide a reason or other justification for his discharge. During EEOC’s investigation, Trans States asserted that it discharged Mr. Hussein primarily because it received an anonymous report that he was in a “drinking establishment” while in uniform. The EEOC’s Complaint alleges that contrary to its established policy, Trans States did not investigate the alleged report or even identify the person who made it. They refused to inform Mr. Hussein of the allegations against him or provide him a chance to respond to the purported accusation.

In its suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (Case No. 4:03CV00964 TCM, EEOC v. Trans States Airlines, Inc.), the EEOC is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination.

EEOC also seeks reinstatement, back wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and other relief for Mr. Hussein. EEOC filed suit after its conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement proved futile.

Mr. Hussein has wanted to fly since he was four years old when he saw the Concorde arrive in Fiji. His high school studies heavily emphasized science and mathematics to better prepare him for aviation studies in college. He graduated in 1997 with a B.A. in aviation from the Massey University School of Aviation in Palmerston North, New Zealand. Mr. Hussein then attended Sierra Academy of Aeronautics in Oakland, California, and graduated in January 2000. He taught there for about a year as a flight instructor before starting with Trans States in February 2001. Since being fired by Trans States he has been unable to obtain a flight crew job with another airline and has worked elsewhere as a business manager since December 2001.

Please click here to view the whole EEOC press release.