By Tresa Baldas
His co-workers may have not seen past his beard, but the jury did.
A Muslim American man from Ypsilanti has won a nearly $1.2-million jury award after successfully arguing he was harassed, taunted and discriminated against at work because of his religion, race and appearance — most notably, his long beard.
Ali Aboubaker, 56, a U.S. citizen and Tunisia native with four advanced degrees, was awarded the judgment on Thursday following a two-week jury trial in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
“We were stunned,” said Aboubaker’s lawyer, Shereef Akeel, who stressed to the jury that his client had several strikes against him.
“I said, ‘Look at him. First of all, his name is Ali Aboubaker. That’s one strike. Look at his beard. That’s two strikes. He’s from Tunisia — an African American — that’s another strike. Can you give this man a fair shake? Look at him, please,” Akeel recalled of the trial.
“And you know what? The jury gave him that fair shake,” Akeel said. “They saw past his beard, past his name, past his race, past his religion. They saw a man who was terribly wronged.”
According to court documents, Aboubaker, a father of four, was an employee of Washtenaw County for 17 years, where he worked his way from bus driver to maintenance technician. He started in 1991 and was fired in 2008 for alleged insubordination — he refused to start working five minutes before his shift officially started.
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