A U.S. Northern District judge has cleared the way for a discrimination suit against city Prosecutor Jay Macejko, filed by an assistant prosecutor, to go before a jury in October.
Bassil Ally, an assistant city prosecutor and a “devout Muslim,” filed a lawsuit in U.S. Northern District Court in 2009 against the city, former Mayor Jay Williams, Law Director Iris Guglucello and Macejko claiming he had been harassed because of his faith and Middle Eastern descent. He also said Macejko threatened his job because he took a late lunch at 1:30 p.m. every Friday to go to his mosque.
The city asked to have the case thrown out of court and requested to have recordings made by Ally of conversations between Ally and co-workers placed under seal. Judge Christopher A. Boyko of U.S. Northern District Court subsequently removed Williams and Guglucello from the suit and placed the transcripts of the recorded conversations under seal, but allowed the case against Macejko and the city to move forward.
Daniel M. Connell, a Cleveland-based attorney representing Ally, said the ruling means Ally will get his day in court.
“We are pleased with the judge’s ruling. Mr. Ally gets to pursue his claims of discrimination and retaliation against the city and against Jay Macejko. He is very much looking forward to having his day in court,” said Connell.
The federal suit says Ally was subjected to comments regarding his religion and national origin. It claims a co-worker inquired whether Ally could have some of his friends in al-Qaida blow up the state of Pennsylvania. Another city employee, the suit claims, inquired whether Ally needed to be checked for bombs.
Ally, who has been an assistant city prosecutor for nearly seven years, contends that at the inception of his employment he informed his supervisors that an accommodation to his weekly work schedule would need to be made so he could attend his weekly religious services every Friday.
Initially, and for a period of approximately two years, Ally’s request for an accommodation to his work schedule was met primarily because he was the prosecutor assigned to a courtroom where court was not in session Friday afternoons. The suit claims that all changed when Macejko called a Friday afternoon meeting and informed Ally if he did not attend he would be fired.
Ally attended his religious service instead of the meeting and was placed on administrative leave. Ally filed a charge of religious discrimination with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission shortly thereafter and was brought back to work.
Ally, in his suit, contends that he was burdened with harassing behavior in the office after filing the religious-discrimination charge including a change in courtroom assignment to a court that regularly meets Friday afternoons.
The city, in its response to the complaint, denies any and all claims made in the complaint. A request for Macejko to comment was not returned Tuesday.
Transcripts say Ally, when asking for accommodations to attend religious services in the new court assignment, was told “that’s life” and that he was only thinking of himself and not the burden to other office staff.
The suit goes on to say Macejko repeatedly castigated Ally for filing the discrimination charges.