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Bechtel Corp., which landed more than $1 billion in contracts earlier this year to rebuild Iraq, is facing charges in New Jersey that it discriminated against an employee of Iraqi origin. In Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Bechtel, 03-Civ. 4616, the EEOC accuses the San Francisco-based company of firing Sahir Kizy in 2002 based on his country of origin. Kizy, a resident of Royal Oak, Mich., was hired by Bechtel in June 2001 as a site acquisition specialist. He worked in Illinois and Boston before being assigned to a project in Hackensack, where the alleged harassment began on Sept. 11, the date of the terrorist attacks. Co-workers asked him where he was from, called him a “f–king Arab,” and physically attacked him, and a site supervisor allegedly told Kizy to “go home” to “wherever you came from,” according to the complaint filed Sept. 30 in federal court in Newark. The EEOC further charges that Kizy was isolated and excluded from meetings and, after he was assigned to a New York project in January 2002, the company stopped giving him work assignments. Bechtel failed to do anything to stop the abuse even after Kizy complained, the suit alleges. He was fired in June 2002. Company spokesman Jonathan Marshall responds that “far from being discriminated against, Bechtel gave him an extension on his original two-month work assignment, and only let him go when his job came to an end,” at a time other employees were also let go. Bechtel accuses the EEOC of bad faith, claiming the agency refused to share evidence or to meet and discuss the case, but summarily demanded a $225,000 settlement, turned down an offer to mediate, then rushed to file suit and publicize the case at a time when Bechtel’s “prominent role in rebuilding Iraq right now makes such charges more newsworthy.” The EEOC declines comment on the accusations. The EEOC filed the suit based on an investigation by Corrado Gigante, director of its Newark office. Edward McCaffrey, a spokesman for the EEOC in Philadelphia, says the Kizy case is part of a post-Sept. 11 backlash against Muslims, Arabs, Sikhs, South Asians and others perceived to be Middle Eastern. His office has received 800 such complaints, 20 of them from New Jersey, he says. Nationally, he adds, complaints of religious discrimination against Muslims have more than doubled in the two years since Sept. 11, from 608 to 1,288, compared with the previous two years.

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