A structural engineer who worked for the Los Angeles Unified School District contends in a lawsuit that the district fired him for complaining about being harassed because of his Muslim faith and for coming forward about alleged structural safety problems in school buildings.
The Los Angeles Daily News reports that Saif Hussain also alleges that his direct supervisor, Talal Balaa, told him he should not have revealed his faith, warning him that “they don’t like observant Muslims.”
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for alleged retaliation, discrimination, harassment and various state Labor Code violations.
The district did not have a comment on the suit.
Hussain, who is of South Asian Indian and Pakistani descent, was hired in July 2016 and says was told he would be the “go-to person for seismic, structural engineering projects and issues.” The suit asserts that he began receiving negative performance reviews after complaining of health and safety issues and revealed himself as a practicing Muslim.
The suit says that last year, Hussain reported delays in two seismic safety programs. He proposed a comprehensive approach to earthquake safety, but the three bosses told him to “shelve his efforts and concentrate on the programs the [district] had given him,” the suit contends.
After Hussain raised his concerns with supervisors, they told him to “just follow instructions” and that there was not enough money to pay for improved earthquake safety, the suit alleges.
Hussain says he became open about being a Muslim when he began taking a longer lunch break on Fridays to attend prayers at a local mosque. Balaa told him that he would now be targeted for his faith and that he should have just said he needed time off for errands, according to the suit.
Hussain alleges he was given negative evaluations in November and January, in part because he is Muslim. He also says he was pressured into signing a resignation form in January and was thwarted when he tried to rescind it. He received an email from human resources stating he did not pass his probationary period and “was told not to return to work,” the suit states.