Black Muslim Navy veteran and firefighter Raheem Hassan faced years of harassment for his race and religion at his workplace, a firehouse located in Brooklyn, according to a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
Hassan claims his colleagues at FDNY Engine 309/Ladder 159 called him a "n***er" and said black people were inherently lazy, among other racist remarks. The lawsuit also claims other firefighters would sneak pork into Hassan's meals without his knowledge because of his religious faith.
"Upon joining the FDNY, Mr. Hassan was subject to ridicule, discrimination, hostility, retaliation and a wide variety of inappropriate behavior which was all known to his superiors and the upper echelons of the FDNY command," the lawsuit read in part. "Members of the FDNY knew Mr. Hassan was of the Islamic faith, and they ostracized him because of it and his skin color."
According to a New York Daily News report in January, Hassan was arrested in December for allegedly threatening his colleagues while complaining about the harassment and hazing. Claims in court papers allege Hassan told a lieutenant, "I’m going to kill the guys in the firehouse," the Daily News reported.
But Hassan's lawyer, Aymen Aboushi, said his client was being punished for speaking out, according to the Daily News.
"It wasn’t true, he never threatened to kill anyone in the firehouse," he stated. "He was arrested for speaking out."
When allegations of the harassment were revealed, four lieutenants and two firefighters were temporarily transferred out of Engine 309/Ladder 159, the New York Post reported.
According to the lawsuit, the transfers served as another source of harassment against Hassan.
"In retaliation for Plaintiff Hassan complaining, he was labeled a 'rat,' ostracized from the firehouse and his housemates," the suit read. "Transfer papers were placed amongst his belongings, the word 'transfer' would be written on his belongings and where his name was supposed to be throughout the firehouse, and he was told that he 'was not wanted,' and 'no one would work with [him.]'"
Furthermore, according to the suit, Hassan feared other firefighters would place their exposed genitals by his face while he slept as it was allegedly a common hazing practice among firefighters.
The suit states that the FDNY has a "culture of discrimination" against "minorities." It also states, "the disparate treatment of minorities at the FDNY and its culture of discrimination is well known to the employer and has been well known for years."