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The New Arab

Former Muslim State Department worker sues US' Mike Pompeo for discrimination

Zaki fell victim to a bullying campaign when she made the request in 2017 [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 February, 2020

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Azza Zaki has filed a federal lawsuit seeking $500,000, after being refused the request to work from home twice a week during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
A former Muslim State Department worker has filed a lawsuit against US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the adjunct government agency for refusing her to work from home during Ramadan, the New York Post reported on Saturday.

According to the federal lawsuit filed in June last year, Azza Zaki, 62, made the request to telecommute twice a week during the annual Muslim holy fasting month in 2017.

Zaki told the Post that she faced no issues securing the arrangement in the the seven years she had served in the government agency, where she was responsible for handling complaints from foreign au pairs working in the US.

When Zaki made the request that year, she fell victim to a targeted bullying campaign, which involved "ridicule", "harrasing emails" and "eye-rolling, dirty looks, huffing and puffing when she spoke" from her co-workers and seniors, according to the lawsuit, in which she seeks a $500,000 settlement.

The deluge of micro-agression also flowed into over-criticism of her work output, with Zaki being placed on a "personal improvement plan", something her lawyer argue was part of an effort to ultimately fire her.

"It was humiliating. It was insulting. It was something I have never experienced", Zaki told the Post.

"They are ignorant about the religion. This is discrimination and ignorance. Nobody bothered to come talk to me and ask why this is important. Why is it that you need to be at home. I would have explained"

The accumulative stress was unbearable for Zaki, who retired in 2018, less than a year after filing an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against her supervisors.

“I could not go through being sick all the time and stressed all the time. Not sleeping,” she said. “I was constantly thinking about all the problems at work and really doubting myself.”

Representatives for Mike Pompeo have not commented on the lawsuit.

Yet an August filing from the Secretary of State insists that the "defendant had legitimate, non-discriminatory, and non-retaliatory reasons for its actions."

In 2013, following the Boston Marathon bombings, Mike Pompeo, then a congressman, claimed publicly that all Muslims were "complicit in the attacks".

In 2014 and 2015, he backed congressional legislation to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a foreign terrorist organisation, a move one counterterrorism analyst saw as aimed at "controlling American Muslims, not with any issue pertaining to the Muslim Brotherhood in any practical or realistic sense."

Pompeo has an established record of working alongside and endorsing groups such as ACT, desribed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "the largest grassroots anti-Muslim organisation in the country".

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