Muslim Medic Sues Detroit Over Discrimination

A Muslim paramedic has filed suit against the City of Detroit claiming that a white captain with a history of bigotry discriminated against him. Alaa Saade filed suit today in US District Court naming the city, Assistant Superintendent Sean Larkins and Captain Timothy Goodman. The suit is being supported by the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR-MI.

Captain Goodman was fired in 2017 over a large number of social media that were critical of Muslims, immigrants, African-Americans, Asians, women, and the LGBTQ community. He was later reinstated by an arbitrator, but demoted to lieutenant.

According to the complaint:

  • Defendant Goodman was a Captain who was a direct supervisor of Plaintiff within the Detroit Fire Department EMS Division and was responsible for investigating allegations of employee misconduct that could result in charges that result in disciplinary infractions.
  • Upon information and belief, Defendant Goodman had a known “hit list” of minority employees that he was going to be targeting for unfair discipline with the intent that those minority employees would be terminated.
  • Upon information and belief, Mr. Saade was one such employee that appeared on Defendant Goodman’s “hit list”.
  • Furthermore, Defendant Goodman was an open and devout racist, xenophobe, Islamophobe and anti-Semite.
  • Evidence of his mindset regarding ethnic and religious minorities was present throughout Defendant Goodman’s public Facebook page.
  • That Facebook page contained several dozen posts either shared by Defendant Goodman, liked by Defendant Goodman, created by Defendant Goodman, or commented on in by Defendant Goodman.
  • In fact Defendant Goodman took pictures of individuals within the city of Detroit where he was intended to serve as Captain of the fire Department EMS Unit, that were captioned with racist and Islamophobic captions intended to harass, embarrass and humiliate.
  • Defendant Goodman’s Facebook posts included dozens of Islamophobic and xenophobic “memes” that targeted people of Mr. Saade’s religion and country of origin including, but not limited to the ones attached hereto as Exhibit C.
  • Within a couple weeks of assuming his new position, Defendant Goodman began a scheme of unfairly disciplining Mr. Saade with the intent to have the only Arab Muslim paramedic at that time terminated from employment with Defendant Fire Department.
  • On or about February 26, 2017, Mr. Saade received a written “charge” (or disciplinary write-up) for taking a day off to take his sick child to the hospital.
  • When Mr. Saade took the day off he believed that he was acting within the scope of the terms of his employment as set forth in his employee handbook and based on what Mr. Saade had witnessed other similarly situated non-Muslim, non-Middle Eastern Palestinian co-workers were doing when in need of a day off on short notice for emergency purposes.
  • However, Defendant Goodman issued Mr. Saade a disciplinary charge for calling into sick to work.
  • It was the first discipline that Mr. Saade had received in his entire employ with Defendants and upon information and belief it was the first discipline ever issued by Defendant Goodman.
  • Furthermore, upon information and belief, no other similarly situated non-Muslim, Non-Middle Eastern Palestinian had ever been disciplined for calling in sick to work in the manner in which Mr. Saade had.
  • Just two short weeks later, on or about March 17, 2017, Mr. Saade received a second, but more serious disciplinary charge from Defendant Goodman.
  • This second disciplinary charge can only be said to be driven by Defendant Goodman’s racial and religious animus against Mr. Saade.
  • It is clear to see from the circumstances around the second disciplinary charge that Defendant Goodman was driven to discipline Mr. Saade because of Mr. Saade’s identity as a Middle Eastern Palestinian Muslim because four employees were involved in the incident that led to Mr. Saade’s discipline, yet only Mr. Saade received a discipline related to the incident.
  • In fact, upon information and belief, only two of the four people involved in the incident were investigated or otherwise questioned about the incident.
  • Those two individuals being Mr. Saade and his African-American Female partner.
  • The two other employees who were not questioned or otherwise investigated were both Caucasian men who were not Muslim.
  • The only individual of the four who actually received a disciplinary charge from this incident is Mr. Saade.
  • Upon information and belief Defendants Detroit and Detroit Fire Department have been unable to provide any rationale as to why Mr. Saade was disciplined out of the four, or why any of the other four individuals who were involved in this incident were not disciplined.

In addition to the allegations against Goodman, Saade alleges the city discriminated against him:

  • Mr. Saade notified his employer that he needed reasonable accommodations to ensure that he could fulfill his sincerely held religious beliefs. Those accommodations including but not limited to:
    • utilizing a specific respirator for CPR due to his traditional Islamic beard;
    • a period of time off Friday afternoons to attend Friday congregational prayers, and
    • Working nights during the month of Ramadan to facilitate low energy and stamina caused by daytime fasting.
  • In 2015 Defendants actively interfered with Mr. Saade’s ability to obtain a position of union steward within the Detroit Fire Fighters Union when they called the union and for upon information and belief reasons believed to be associated with his religion and country of origin, asked that Mr. Saade not be given the steward position that he was being considered for.
  • Mr. Saade, despite being the most qualified, was not selected for [a] promotion which was given instead to nine (9) Caucasian men and one (1) African American woman.
  • Upon information and belief several factors resulted in Mr. Saade not obtaining the promotion. First, the discriminatory disciplines received by Mr. Saade from Defendant Goodman and upheld by Defendant Larkins.
  • Second, the liberal subjective weight given to the interview process allowed Defendants to continue the discriminatory treatment of Plaintiff by using his interview as pretext to deny Mr. Saade the promotion.
  • Mr. Saade continued to face disparate treatment with regards to work assignments and denial of his requests for a reasonable accommodation despite the fact that Defendants would not have suffered any undue burden as a result of granting his requests.
  • It was only after Defendant filed a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC and Defendants were notified of that charge, that Defendants granted some of Mr. Saade’s accommodation requests.
  • Defendants Detroit and Detroit Fire Department, in an attempt to disparage Mr. Saade, leaked his personnel file and personal information to the media including the two discriminatory and unlawful disciplinary records instituted by Defendant Goodman as a result of his Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist views.
  • Indeed, Defendants’ actions in leaking Mr. Saade’s private information to the media was in violation of Defendants’ own policies and union contract and were in furtherance of Defendants’ scheme to cover up Defendant Goodman’s illegal actions.

The complaint contains a single count of discrimination under Title VIIbased upon Saade’s status as a “Muslim American of Middle Eastern Palestinian origin.”

Here is a copy of the complaint, including the exhibits:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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