| KANSAS CITY
KANSAS CITY Mo. May 4 A Kansas City woman who
converted from Christianity to Islam has been awarded $5 million
in punitive damages by a jury who found the telecommunications
giant AT&T created a "hostile work environment" after her
conversion, according to a judge's order issued Friday.
Susann Bashir, a 41-year-old married mother, sued AT&T unit
Southwestern Bell for what she said was a pattern of offensive
and discriminatory conduct by her supervisors that began when
she converted to Islam in 2005, six years after she started
working for the company as a network technician.
After Bashir started wearing a religious head scarf known as
a hijab, and attending Friday mosque services, her managers and
co-workers called her names including "terrorist," and told her
she was going to hell, said her attorney Amy Coopman.
A manager repeatedly told her to remove her hijab, insulted
her for wearing it, and once physically grabbed Bashir and tried
to rip the hijab off her head, according to the suit.
Bashir complained to human resources and then filed a formal
complaint alleging discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and was subsequently fired in 2010.
After several days of hearing testimony and deliberation, a
jury in Jackson County Circuit Court on Thursday ordered AT&T to
pay $5 million in punitive damages on top of $120,000 in actual
AT&T spokesman Marty Richter said the company would appeal.
"AT&T is a nationally recognized leader in workforce
diversity and inclusion, something in which we take great pride.
We disagree with the verdict and plan to appeal," Richter said.
Bashir's lawyer said the jury award was "monumental" to
Bashir, but said it had little impact on AT&T, a
multi-billion-dollar global corporation.
"The company has an excellent written policy," said Coopman.
"If they had just followed the policy none of this would