YOUNGSTOWN — An assistant city prosecutor, who is Muslim, filed a federal lawsuit against the city, the mayor, law director, city prosecutor and co-workers, claiming discrimination and retaliation.
The suit also claims the defendants made a concerted effort to keep him from practicing his religious beliefs.
Ally attends weekly prayer services at his mosque about 1:30 p.m. each Friday as required by his religion, according to his lawsuit filed by Daniel M. Connell, his Cleveland-based attorney.
The city accommodated the request to worship on Friday afternoons until the end of 2007, when co-workers complained to city Prosecutor Jay Macejko that Ally “was receiving preferential treatment,” the lawsuit reads.
“Ally was also subjected to comments regarding his religion and/or national origin” by co-workers, according to the lawsuit.
The issue escalated and on Jan. 11, 2008, the lawsuit contends, Macejko scheduled a staff meeting to discuss the problem on a Friday afternoon conflicting with Ally’s attendance at his mosque services.
“Despite these obvious threats to his job and livelihood, Mr. Ally chose to attend his Friday religious service,” Connell wrote in the lawsuit.
That led to Macejko firing Ally, who earns $61,620 annually as an assistant prosecutor. Guglucello sent a letter three days later putting him on administrative leave, according to the lawsuit.
Ally — described in his lawsuit as a “devout Muslim” — filed a charge of religious discrimination on Jan. 15, 2008, with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission. He returned to work Feb. 4, 2008.
“Defendants took a host of actions designed to harass, intimidate and humiliate” Ally in retaliation for filing the charge, the lawsuit states.
In the lawsuit, Connell wrote that his client was reassigned to a court that meets regularly on Friday afternoons after serving in one that wasn’t in session during that time.
Also, he “began to experience various physical ailments, which, according to his doctors, were occasioned by work-related stress,” the lawsuit reads.
When Ally returned, he was assigned to five straight weeks of night court, a deviation from the normal practice, according to the lawsuit.
Ally is suing the city, Guglucello, Macejko, Mayor Jay Williams and 10 co-workers — listed as John Does 1-10 in the lawsuit — for more than $75,000 accusing them of harassment, creating a hostile work environment and retaliation based on his religious beliefs.
The defendants “deprived [Ally] of federal constitutional and/or statutory rights, including, but not limited to the free exercise of his religious beliefs and equal protection,” the lawsuit reads.
Ray Nakley, spokesman for the Arab-American Community Center of Youngstown, said this is the first lawsuit in the area he knows of involving an employer accused of religious discrimination against a Muslim.
“I have to say it’s new to me,” he said.
Also, a former city worker filed an appeal to a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge’s decision to dismiss Youngstown in a wrongful-termination lawsuit.
Gregory A. Gordillo of Cleveland filed the appeal with the 7th District Court of Appeals for his client — former city council Clerk Arlene Bahar — claiming Judge Maureen Sweeney erred in her Feb. 18 decision to throw out the case.
The judge decided city council “likely fired” Bahar because of her “job performance.”
Bahar contends she was fired Feb. 15, 2006, from a job that paid her $62,886 annually, as retaliation after complaining about being sexually harassed by then-Councilman Artis Gillam Sr. for more than four years. Gillam insisted that wasn’t true and sued Bahar for defamation. She countersued for wrongful termination. That case was settled and dismissed Feb. 23.