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Zafar Hasan, a former associate in Foley & Lardner‘s Chicago office, can proceed with an employment discrimination suit against the law firm, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a ruling Tuesday that overturned a decision by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Hasan, who is a Muslim of Indian descent, alleges in the 2004 lawsuit that certain partners at the law firm pushed to fire him on the basis of his race, religion, color and national origin after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in New York. The firm first justified Hasan’s dismissal by saying his performance was poor, but later, after positive work evaluations turned up, said that the firm didn’t have enough work to keep him busy, according to a recap of the lawsuit in the 7th Circuit decision. The U.S. District Court granted summary judgment to the law firm, saying that Hasan hadn’t created a “convincing mosaic” of evidence of the discrimination that could permit a jury to agree that Foley had intentionally discriminated against Hasan, but the appellate court disagreed and said there was sufficient evidence. Hasan had been an associate in the business law department until he was asked in December 2002 to leave within six months because of “deficiencies in his performance.” “That ‘mosaic’ of evidence, together with the unresolved questions of fact, is sufficient under the direct method of proof for Mr. Hasan to survive summary judgment on his discrimination claims,” the Dec. 15 7th Circuit decision said. Seventh Circuit Judges John Coffey, Daniel Manion and Kenneth Ripple wrote the appellate decision that reversed U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel. Hasan’s attorney, Tom Crooks, said he was “very pleased” with the decision that expressed “exactly the theory we had put forth in our summary judgment response. Jackson Lewis partner Peter Bulmer, who is representing the law firm, couldn’t be reached for comment. Calls to the firm’s Chicago office weren’t immediately returned.

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