Muslim sues Washington hotel over bias during Israeli delegation’s stay

A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today filed a lawsuit against a Washington, D.C., hotel on behalf of a Muslim employee who says he faced discriminationafter he was barred from carrying out his duties on floors occupied last year by a visiting Israeli delegation.

In its suit filed in U.S. District Court for the District Of Columbia against the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) alleges that in December of 2010, the American citizen of Moroccan heritage was forbidden to go to the 8th or 9th floors of the hotel because an Israeli delegation was staying there.

He was reportedly barred from those floors despite the fact that he had previously undergone an FBI background check and had carried out his duties for other foreign delegations and dignitaries, including former American presidents.

“No American should be treated differently or face discrimination by an employer because of his or her race, religion or national origin,” said CAIR Legal Counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili.

According to the suit, when the Muslim employee asked why he was barred from those floors, he was told by a supervisor, “You know how the Israelis are with Arabs and Muslims.” Another hotel supervisor allegedly stated that “the Israeli delegation does not want to be served by Defendant’s Muslim employees and that Defendant accommodates this preference because it does not want to lose the Israeli delegation as clients.”

The suit also alleges that hotel supervisors believed the Muslim employee “would particularly pose a problem for the Israeli delegation, because if they encountered him, members of the delegation would easily be able to see his name – Mohamed – written on his employee nametag.”

After the Muslim worker’s colleagues learned of the restrictions the hotel had placed on his duties, several of them ridiculed him as a potential terrorist, “poking him in the stomach to feign checking his body for explosives.”

CAIR’s suit also alleges that the hotel retaliated against the employee for complaining about the discriminatory treatment.

The lawsuit seeks diversity training for hotel employees, back pay for the Muslim worker, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, and an order requiring the hotel to adopt a non-discrimination and retaliation policy and to establish an effective mechanism for receiving and responding to complaints of discrimination and retaliation.

CAIR press release, 29 August 2011