Mahmoud Mousa, who calls himself a "Jordanian Muslim American," was employed at IBM's microelectronics plant in Burlington, Vt., from June 2003 to December 2005, when he was fired because of his religious beliefs, according to a lawsuit Mousa filed last month in U.S. District Court in New York.
Mousa says IBM's stated reason for the firing -- that he had failed to show up for work -- "was a pretext to mask the motivating factor behind his termination -- discrimination on the basis of his religion and/or national origin," according the suit.
Mousa claims that he was subject to discrimination and anti-Islamic comments and behavior from two different managers while working at IBM's Burlington operations. On one occasion, a manager of non-Muslim, Indian origin criticized Mousa for taking time out for Friday prayers, asking him "Why are you doing this?", according to court records.
He also claims colleagues mocked him for refusing to eat pizza during his Ramadan fast and asked him to clean off a knife used to cut pork during a company picnic. Strict Islamic law forbids Muslims from touching pork.
Mousa also claims his $68,000 salary was considerably lower than salaries paid to co-workers with similar accomplishments. Mousa obtained five patents for IBM while at the company, including one for a means to create connections between vertically stacked circuits on computer chips, according to a search of a Web site that tracks patent filings.
He was fired in late December, 2005 for "abandoning his job," despite having received formal approval for a leave of absence from IBM's human resources department, Mousa claims. He is seeking unspecified damages from IBM.
A spokesman for IBM declined to comment on the case, citing company policy regarding lawsuits. On its Web site, IBM says it is an equal opportunity employer committed to workplace diversity.