Rite Aid sued by Muslim woman for discriminatory firing

By Jon Campisi | Jan 30, 2012

A Chester County, Pa. woman who claims her wearing of an Islamic head covering and her Muslim faith in general led to her eventual firing from Rite Aid Corp. has filed a federal job discrimination complaint against the company.

In her complaint, which was filed Jan. 26 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Philadelphia attorneys James A. Bell and Christopher A. Macey, Jr., Khadijah Al-Amin of Coatesville claims Rite Aid discriminated against her when the company terminated her employment in July 2010, allegedly in retaliation for her speaking out about the supposed discriminatory treatment she had been receiving by company management.

Al-Amin, who was first hired by Rite Aid’s predecessor, Eckerd, in January 2006, as a salaried manager, was taken out of her store manager’s position in October 2007 in what was promised to be a lateral move that would preserve her salary and other benefits, the lawsuit states.

While her salary initially remained the same, some of her other perks didn’t transfer over, the lawsuit claims, in what appeared to be the start of a process of discriminatory treatment.

“During the course of her employment, Ms. Al-Amin became aware of an atmosphere of discrimination against Muslim employees that was leading to or causing the actions complained of above,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that one of Al-Amin’s supervisors, Rodney Bryant, who is named as a defendant in the suit, repeatedly referred to the plaintiff’s head covering as a “do-rag,” and informed her that she would never advance in the company without his assistance because she didn’t “project the right image,” primarily because of her religious head covering.

As a result of her alleged harassment, Al-Amin made complaints to senior human resources director Cynthia Whitman, another defendant in the suit, telling of the discrimination she was experiencing, the suit states.

After making the complaints, Bryant allegedly berated Al-Amin, the lawsuit claims, telling her that she “would be sorry.”

After the plaintiff was transferred to her new position, she began to experience other hardships, the suit states, such as having her raises and stock options withheld, being demoted in job title, having her records changed to reflect that she was a new hire and withholding a satisfactory job performance rating, which prevented her from getting a raise.

Al-Amin submitted another written complaint to the company about her discriminatory treatment in early July 2010, but no action was taken to address her issues.

The lawsuit claims that the harassment, discrimination and retaliation “reached its zenith” when Al-Amin was told in mid July 2010 that she would either have to accept a “significant demotion” or be terminated.

The plaintiff was told there were no store manager positions available, something Al-Amin claims was untrue, and simply done as retaliation for her speaking out against company officials.

She was fired later that month.

“Defendant Rite Aid lacks an effective policy and/or practice to prevent and address religious discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint alleges that Al-Amin has suffered emotional distress and financial loss as a result of her discriminatory firing.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating the Civil Rights Act and Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act.

Al-Amin seeks declaratory judgment, unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00426-CMR.

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