A former employee of the French Embassy in Washington DC, who was fired for being a Muslim has won a federal lawsuit against the French mission.
Saima Ashraf-Hassan, a Pakistan-born French citizen came to the United States a few months after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, and took a job at the French Embassy in DC.
She said her co-workers harassed her, called her a “terrorist” and told her she couldn’t wear a hijab at work.
“This was the first time somebody was calling me a terrorist inside the French Embassy,” Ashraf-Hassan told News4′s Mark Segraves.
Hassan said when she told her supervisor she was pregnant, the embassy fired her.
She later sued the French Embassy for discrimination and last month a federal judge ruled in her favour.
Following the win, Hassan’s attorney Ari Wilkenfeld said “this may be the only time a US court has extended the reach of the civil rights laws to extend to a foreign citizen, working for a foreign government on foreign soil at an embassy here in DC.”
However, the embassy is still fighting the case and an attorney for the embassy told News4 he had filed two new motions asking the judge to review his ruling.
“We are confident that Mrs Ashraf’s claim will ultimately be dismissed,” said attorney Pierre Chone.
The embassy tried to invoke sovereign immunity, three years into the case.
However, Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American Islamic Relations says; “I don’t think the embassy should be able to hide behind its immunity.”
The judge in the case agreed, ruling the “defendant may delay these proceedings, but it may not evade trial by means of this transparent ploy.”
Katie Atkinson, who represented Hassan on the issue of sovereign immunity, says because her job didn’t have anything to do with the government, sovereign immunity didn’t apply.
“Her job was to oversee the intern programme. It had nothing to do with French government policy or law,” Atkinson said.