Store pays Muslim ex-employee $16,000


The owner of a Maryland chain of education supply stores has agreed to pay $16,000 to a Muslim former employee who complained that she was fired shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks because of her religious beliefs.

As part of the settlement, which followed an investigation by the State of Maryland Commission on Human Relations, the owner of Learning How also sent an apology to the fired worker, Shabana Ahmed, and agreed to send his managers to cultural and religious awareness training.

Ahmed, 27, worked as a saleswoman at the company's Columbia store for several weeks in October 2001. She wore traditional Muslim attire to work and prayed several times a day in the back of the store. According to the commission's investigation, company President John Faw Jr. pulled aside the store manager.

The manager told members of the commission that Faw said, "Are you crazy? ... I can't have her working here." Ahmed was fired the next day, said Lee Hoshall, assistant general counsel at the commission.

A Learning How official denied wrongdoing. "Basically, we looked at it as a great deal of miscommunication. ... To avoid any further aggravation, we settled out of the court," said Michael Wayland, Learning How's chief financial officer. "We would vehemently deny any act of discrimination on our part."

He declined to comment on the former manager's testimony.

Ahmed said she was "happy with the way it turned out."

"It was a very shocking and disturbing thing that happened to me," she said.

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