PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland woman has filed a discrimination suit against a national furniture retailer, claiming that she was harassed by fellow employees and ultimately fired from a job at its local branch because she is Muslim.
Leyla Hashi claims that in 2015 she was abruptly fired from her job at Aaron’s, a rent-to-own furniture and appliance store on Forest Avenue, after requesting a day off to observe a religious holiday.
The termination followed a pattern of harassment in which other employees mocked and demeaned Hashi, a black Somali immigrant, based on her gender, appearance, attire and religion, according to a suit filed last month in Cumberland County Superior Court.
Hashi is suing the store’s Georgia-based parent corporation, SEI/Aaron’s Inc., for reinstatement of her job, lost wages and benefits with interest, punitive damages and legal costs. The Maine Human Rights commission issued her the right to sue under state law in February.
At Aaron’s, Hashi claims that she was subjected to a stream of verbal harassment that was brushed off by management and deliberately was excluded from workplace activities. At one point, after Hashi had told her boss that observant Muslims don’t eat pork, the Aaron’s “office put on an all pork barbecue,” the suit states.
Sometime after this, Hashi requested a Friday off to celebrate Eid, the festival which ends the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Her manager, who is not named in the suit, initially told her she could not take the day off, but appeared to have a last minute change of heart and texted Hashi on Friday morning to say that she need not come into work and should enjoy the holiday, according to the court documents.
The next Monday, when Hashi returned to work, she was greeted by a new person sitting behind her desk and laughter from other employees, the suit states. Her manager then allegedly fired her without providing an explanation.
The manager later listed “Not a fit” as the reason for Hashi’s termination, according to the court documents.
Hashi’s lawyer, Marshall Tinkle, said the court complaint speaks for itself.
Aaron’s Inc. had not filed a response to the suit in court as of Monday morning. Lawyer Katharine Rand, who is representing the company locally, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.