UPS employee alleges anti-Muslim workplace environment

Tuesday , July 10, 2012 - 5:03 PM

Anika Myers Palm

ORLANDO, Fla. - An engineer for UPS in Orlando filed a federal complaint Tuesday, alleging that the company allowed workers to spy on him in a restroom and otherwise harass him because of his Arab background and Muslim faith.

Ashraf Sarandah, a Palestinian-American, claimed he was called derogatory names and denied promotions at UPS because of his faith and ethnicity, though he was not specific. He filed discrimination charges against the parcel delivery company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Sarandah, 33, said at a news conference with his attorney and the Council on American-Islamic Relations that the harassment has been a steady problem during at least six of the eight years he has been employed by UPS as an industrial engineer and planner.

UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg denied that UPS allowed a "hostile work environment," as Sarandah charged.

"Mr. Sarandah remains a current employee for UPS and has not suffered any adverse action for his work status," Rosenberg wrote in an email. She said the company is proud of the religious diversity of its 400,000 employees and that the company has accommodated all of Sarandah’s religious requests.

Sarandah said that during an instant-messaging conversation with a supervisor in 2008, he asked whether the supervisor had called him a monkey because of his ethnicity, and the supervisor said yes. Sarandah saved a transcript of the exchange and showed some of it at the news conference.

Earlier this year, Sarandah said, a UPS employee bent under a stall in a restroom at the company to spy on him. When Sarandah left the stall, the worker questioned him about why he hadn’t used a urinal and offered instruction on how to use a restroom the way American men do, added Sarandah’s attorney, Michael Hanna.

His experience with the company, where he is still employed, has been "extremely humiliating" and hurtful, Sarandah said. The incident in the restroom in January was the last straw, he said, and he began investigating his legal options after that. He said he filed with the EEOC because he doesn’t want other employees to experience the same treatment.

Sarandah said he complained to the human-resources department at UPS, but Hanna declined to explain the company’s response. If the EEOC certifies the complaint after investigating, Sarandah will be able to file a federal lawsuit against the company in about 180 days, Hanna said.

"This conduct is un-American," said Hassan Shibly, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Shibly said other former UPS employees with Arab heritage have come forward with similar complaints, though he did not provide specifics.

In a separate incident last year, a Muslim subcontractor alleged that UPS in Sweden discriminated against him because supervisors told him to shave his beard, which he said he had for religious reasons.

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)2012 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)

Visit The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) at www.OrlandoSentinel.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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