Employee accuses circuit court of anti-Muslim harassment
Child care attendant told she was not a ‘good Christian,’ lawsuit says
June 22, 2011|By Manya A. Brachear, Tribune reporter
A former child care attendant for the Cook County Circuit Court has sued the court, its chief judge and her former supervisor for allegedly harassing her because she is Muslim.
Fozyia Huri, 45, a Muslim of Saudi Arabian origin, alleges that Sylvia McCullum, executive director of the Cook County court’s children’s advocacy rooms, bullied her because she was not a “good Christian.”
According to the suit, McCullum repeatedly referred to herself, other employees and Chief Judge Timothy Evans as “good Christians,” indicating that the two went to the same church.
Also according to the suit, in 2009 McCullum asked several child care attendants including Huri to hold hands while she prayed out loud in the name of Jesus Christ, and told another child care attendant who requested to work with Huri that she should work with a “good Christian,” not with Huri who was “evil.”
Huri said she complained to the office of the chief judge multiple times between 2002 and 2009. When the office took no action and the alleged harassment continued, she filed a religious discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May 2010.
She was transferred to the court reporter’s office last November and in March received a letter from the U.S. Department of Justice granting her the right to sue.
The case has not been fully investigated by the EEOC or Department of Justice, her attorney said.
Through her attorney, Kamran Memon, Huri declined requests for an interview.
“She had been suffering for a while,” he said. “She just felt like she had to do something to move the process along.”
He added that McCullum’s conduct was “motivated by anti-Muslim hostility.”
“Sylvia McCullum made it clear that she was a good Christian and that she was evaluating people or judging people based on whether they were good Christians,” Memon said. “That’s part of the anti-Muslim hostility that we see to a large extent on the religious right in America. There are a lot of right-wing Christians who are very hostile to Islam and Muslims.”
Evans and McCullum are represented by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, which declined to comment.
Memon also represents Safoorah Khan, a Muslim math teacher in Berkeley who quit her job and filed a religious discrimination complaint with the EEOC when school administrators denied her request for leave to make hajj, the annual religious pilgrimage to Mecca. In December, the Justice Department filed a suit on her behalf.
Original post: Employee accuses circuit court of anti-Muslim harassment