The federal government has settled its lawsuit against Norwegian Cruise Line on behalf of six men working aboard a cruise ship in Hawaii who were fired apparently because their ethnicity gave rise to suspicions that they were terrorists.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday that the lawsuit, filed in August 2006, was settled for $485,000, with the money being divided among a total of seven employees who previously worked on board NCL's "Pride of Aloha" cruise ship.
The six men, who are Muslim, were fired from their jobs in July 2004 when the cruise ship was docked at Maui. A seventh crew member quit the next day for fear of also being fired.
"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, in a prepared statement.
As part of the two-year consent decree resolving the case, the Miami-based NCL America agrees to pay the crew members a total of $485,000 but denies that it acted improperly against them. NCL also agrees to revise its policies to ensure a workplace that promotes equal employment opportunity, to hire an equal employment consultant and to provide training to its managers and employees on the company's equal employment policy and complaint procedure.
The lawsuit is the first case in Hawaii of what is sometimes known as "9/11 backlash," where employees with Middle Eastern ethnic backgrounds are discriminated against as a result of suspicion and paranoia among employers. The EEOC said the men were fired en masse with no reason given and NCL violated their civil rights.
The incident that triggered the firings occurred when one of the Muslim men asked another crew member about the location of the ship's security office, engine room and bridge. The crew member notified ship's security and NCL contacted federal authorities to investigate whether the man, as well as six other crew members who were Muslims, posed a threat. [Link]
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