NCL to pay $485K in ‘9/11 backlash’ case
NCL settles with EEOC in ‘9/11 backlash’ case
STORY SUMMARY »
NCL America has agreed to pay $485,000 to settle a lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in what the agency is calling the first "9/11 backlash" case in Hawaii.
The crew members, seven men of Arab or Muslim origin, were allegedly singled out because of a perceived threat, and forced off the Pride of Aloha in the middle of the night while the ship was docked at Maui.
NCL says in agreeing to the settlement that it admits no wrongdoing.
Although more than 1,000 "9/11 backlash" cases have been filed with the EEOC across the U.S., this is the first in Hawaii, the agency says.
Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which covers Hawaii, said the settlement sends an important message to employers about the pitfalls of ethnic profiling.
FULL STORY »
has agreed to a $485,000 settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in a lawsuit alleging ethnic profiling of seven Arab and Muslim crew members it fired in 2004.
The lawsuit was filed in August 2006 in U.S. District Court on behalf of seven crew members of Arab or Muslim origin who were fired from jobs aboard the Pride of Aloha.
In addition to $485,000, which will be divided among the seven crew members, NCL America has also agreed to an additional $300,000 in attorneys' fees.
"We are very pleased with this outcome, and NCL America should be applauded for its commitment to prevent discrimination by agreeing to the comprehensive injunctive relief in this case," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District Office, which includes Hawaii.
Even as it in agreed to settle the lawsuit, however, Miami-based NCL America, continued to deny that it acted improperly.
"We are proud of our employment practices and record and do not condone discrimination of any kind," said NCL America, which employs 1,350 in Hawaii, in an issued statement. "Our employees come from a very broad range of ethnic and religious backgrounds, which provides a wonderful diversity among our staff."
Park said she believed this was a classic case of ethnic profiling.
The number of such cases rose following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with 1,016 charges filed across the U.S. up until March 11. Of those cases, 1,012 were resolved by the EEOC, and four remain open.
This, however, is the first "9/11 backlash" case filed with the district office in Hawaii, she said.
Park said it should send a clear message to employers about the pitfalls of ethnic profiling.
"We certainly understand an employer needing to protect their clients and being concerned about security," she said, "but you can't do it by trumping the civil rights of individuals, particularly in profiling of Arabs and Muslims."
The incident that sparked the lawsuit occurred in July 2004, when according to one account one of the plaintiffs asked another crew member where the security office and engine room was. That crew member grew alarmed and alerted the security office.
By other accounts, according to Park, some crew members reported the plaintiffs speaking another language and acting in a suspicious manner.
NCL then called for a federal investigation of the plaintiffs by a joint terrorism task force that included members of the F.B.I. and U.S. Coast Guard.
The task force found that the men posed no threat, but NCL fired six immediately, in the middle of the night, while docked at Maui, said Park.
A seventh crew member quit the next day under duress, according to EEOC.
"NCL went ahead and fired them despite the task force saying there was nothing here," said Park.
The disturbing part, however, is that NCL America never investigated these allegations, she continued.
Some of the crew members were U.S. citizens, according to Park, and all had proper certification that allowed them to work on U.S.-flagged ships.
All of the plaintiffs involved -- Muthana Shaibi, Abdullah Yahva, Ahmed Al-Mlhany, Ahmed Almraisi, Nagi A. Alziam, Nork Yafaie and Samed Kassam -- were also members of the Seafarers International Union.
They held positions ranging from utility gallery worker to waiter and environmental operator.
In addition to the monetary settlement, which is to compensate the plaintiffs for loss of earnings, emotional pain, suffering, and humiliation, NCL must also revise its policies, hire an EEO consultant, and provide training on its equal employment policy and complaint procedure.
"Money is a small consolation," said Park. "What we're most concerned with is that they ensure this doesn't happen again."