Ohio: Suit says Muslim’s firing was based on religious bias

A North Side man has filed a federal lawsuit that says a Westerville-based logistics company fired him after he sought permission to attend weekly Muslim worship services that conflicted with overtime shifts.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday on behalf of Yusuf Sufi, 23, by the Columbus chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. It says Exel Inc. used religious discrimination and retaliation, and wrongfully terminated him. Exel is a subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL.

Sufi was hired in April 2011 at a Northeast Side warehouse and subsequently given permission to use vacation and other time-off hours to attend Friday afternoon worship, according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Columbus. Several months later, he was given permission to combine his breaks to attend the services.

When his supervisors were replaced, those permissions were revoked, Sufi claims, and he was fired in May 2012 after telling a manger he could not skip Friday worship.

Friday services are mandatory for Muslim men, akin to the Sabbath for Jews or weekend worship for Christians.

In a statement, Exel said the company has not terminated anyone for religious practices or requests and that it “goes to great lengths to ensure employees’ religious practices are understood and, as appropriate, accommodated.”

Sufi’s regular work week was Monday through Thursday, but he was told he’d be penalized if he declined to work Friday overtime shifts when requested, the lawsuit said.

He seeks reinstatement as well as an unspecified amount in lost pay and benefits and other damages.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints filed last month by 18 Muslims who worked at the same warehouse. They claim they were fired for praying at work. The company denies the allegations.

Columbus Dispatch, 11 April 2013

See also “CAIR-OH files federal religious discrimination suit against Exel, Inc.”, CAIR press release, 9 April 2013