Employment discrimination is not always a single shocking incident. In many cases, it is a series of smaller actions that slowly reveal themselves as something more sinister: targeted, discriminatory behavior against a worker. It can occur in any workplace across the United States.
Here in New York, the city is facing a religious discrimination lawsuit from a long-serving detective. He claims he has been denied promotions and other opportunities simply because he is Muslim.
Isolated and insulted
Abdelim Azab’s résumé is a long one. He joined the NYPD in 2001 and worked undercover for seven years. He is now a detective second grade and a member of the mayor’s security team.
Yet he has not been promoted since 2008, which is in part the basis for the $7 million discrimination lawsuit he filed against the city, according to a report from the New York Daily News. In the lawsuit, Azab says the department isolated him, insulted him, passed him over for promotions and did not afford him certain career opportunities because he is Muslim.
Among the allegations:
- Azab overheard a superior saying he would “send one of the misfits” to City Hall. That superior then proceeded to station Azab there.
- More than once, Azab was scheduled to be on the mayor’s detail, only to see his assignment change.
- Similarly, there were instances in which Azab was taken out of one of the mayor’s vehicles and replaced by a different detective.
In an August 2019 update from the New York Post, a judge ruled Azab’s lawsuit can move forward. The judge specifically cited Azab’s high-scoring performance reviews, his lack of any promotion in more than a decade, and the promotion of non-Muslim, non-Egyptian and lesser-ranked colleagues instead of Azab during that time.
A pattern of discriminatory behavior
Discrimination based on race and religion is among the most common charges workers file. This New York case, if the allegations are true, can serve as an example of the ways discrimination can be subtle rather than overt.
It’s not always racial slurs, demotions or outright threats. Sometimes discrimination is a series of small decisions that – in a vacuum – don’t seem like much, but taken together as a whole clearly demonstrate a pattern of discriminatory behavior. Other times, it is refusing to open doors for someone, while opening them for others.
In these cases, it is important to not brush off potentially serious incidents. Even if something seems small, it may actually be very telling.