A Jordanian man working at United Parcel Service’s San Bruno hub was discriminated by coworkers as a "terrorist” who might blow up the building and involuntarily transferred after reporting the harassment that included assaults with rocks and bottles, according to a lawsuit filed on his behalf.
The suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday charges the global shipping company with violating federal law by allowing discrimination of Talal Alfaour and illegally retaliated against him after he reported the behavior to the company and his union.
Alfaour faced "egregious and intolerable harassment” at UPS but remains employed there in hopes of remedying the situation, said William Tamayo, regional attorney for the EEOC in San Francisco, in a prepared announcement of the filing.
That remedy includes monetary damages on behalf of Alfaour, training on anti-discrimination laws and posting anti-discrimination notices at the work site.
Alfaour, who is Muslim, joined UPS in the South San Francisco center in 1995 as a loader and revenue worker. Since at least 2004, Alfaour was physically and verbally assaulted by coworkers and supervisors who called him "Dr. Bomb,” "Al-Qaida” and "Taliban,” according to the EOCC.
Alfaour reported that a supervisor told him he could never work with hazardous materials because "you are a terrorist and you are going to blow up the building.” The suit also states Alfaour was assaulted with rocks, bottles and tools and once a dead mouse was placed in his lunch sack.
Alfaour repeatedly reported the harassment but UPS failed to take action and instead chose to transfer him to a new work station where he was scrutinized closely, the suit alleges.
EEOC District Director Michael Baldonado said punishing an employee like Alfaour for speaking up about discrimination is not only illegal under the Civil Rights Act but also poisons the work environment.
"It sends the message to your staff that an employee complains at his or her own risk and it can encourage harassers to continue,” Baldonado said.
The EEOC reported trying to reach a settlement voluntarily with UPS but, failing to do so, filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for Northern California.
UPS has yet to be served with the suit so it cannot comment on the specific allegations, said Public Relations Director Susan Rosenberg.
However, she said UPS has a zero tolerance policy regarding discrimination.
"We take claims of discrimination of any form very seriously. They are stated implicitly in our policies and training and we will investigate them thoroughly,” Rosenberg said.
According to the EEOC, retaliation claims represented 37.4 percent of all charges filed with the commission in fiscal year 2011 — the highest percentage of any claim that year and the highest number of retaliation charges ever by the EEOC in any given year.
Michelle Durand can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 102.