French Embassy Employee Fired for Being Muslim, Pregnant Wins Federal Lawsuit

Saima Ashraf-Hassan says she was repeatedly singled out at work and called a "terrorist" by co-workers

A former employee of the French Embassy was fired for being pregnant and Muslim, a federal judge ruled.

Saima Ashraf-Hassan is a Pakistan-born French citizen and came to the United States a few months after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

She took a job at the French Embassy in D.C. where she said her co-workers harassed her, called her a "terrorist" and told her she couldn't wear a hijab at work.

"This was the first time somebody was calling me a terrorist inside the French Embassy," Ashraf-Hassan told News4's Mark Segraves.

She said when she told her supervisor she was pregnant, the embassy fired her.

She sued the French Embassy for discrimination and last month a federal judge ruled in her favor.

"This may be the only time a U.S. court has extended the reach of the civil rights laws to extend to a foreign citizen, working for a foreign government on foreign soil at an embassy here in D.C.," said Ashraf-Hassan's attorney Ari Wilkenfeld.

But the embassy is still fighting the case and an attorney for the embassy told News4 he has filed two new motions asking the judge to reconsider his ruling.

"We are still firmly confident that Mrs. Ashraf's Claim will ultimately be dismissed," said attorney Pierre Chone.

Three years into the case the embassy tried to invoke sovereign immunity.

"I don't think the embassy should be able to hide behind its immunity," said Ibrahim Hooper with the Council on American Islamic Relations.

The judge in the case agreed, ruling the "defendant may delay these proceedings, but it may not evade trial by means of this transparent ploy."

Katie Atkinson represented Ashraf-Hassan on the issue of sovereign immunity and says because her job didn't have anything to do with the government, sovereign immunity didn't apply.

"Her job was to oversee the intern program. It had nothing to do with French government policy or law," Atkinson said.

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