Islamic Law in U.S. Courts: Rikabi v. Nicholson (5th Cir. 2008): Employment Discrimination Settlement

The plaintiff, a Muslim occupational health physician, sued his former employer, the Department of Veteran Affairs and its Secretary, Jim Nicholson, under Title VII, alleging religious discrimination and retaliation for filing a discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He filed the claim after he heard his supervisor refer to Muslims as a threat and after his supervisor’s wife made comments about how she and her husband do not like Muslims and the way they live—presumably referring to his observance of prayers, fasting, and other aspects of Islamic ritual law. The plaintiff discovered that his position was being eliminated sometime after these comments were made, but continued to consult with his former employer about infectious diseases. Three months following his position’s elimination, the plaintiff saw a job advertisement for the same position at his former place of employment and filed a claim with the EEOC for discrimination. Immediately after his supervisor found out about his claim, the plaintiff contends that he was no longer allowed on the property and that other employees were barred from contacting him for consultations. The Court concluded that the timing was questionable enough that a jury could find that the events described were examples of retaliation. The Court reversed and remanded the decision of the District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi to grant Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, allowing the case to go forward. The parties ultimately settled the case, and the case was closed in December of 2008.

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