Business

Muslim man says he was harassed because of his religion at prominent NC coffee company

S&D executives lead a tour of the Concord plant in this 2008 file photo. A Muslim man says he was discriminated against because of his religion and was sexually harassed at S&D Coffee & Tea.
S&D executives lead a tour of the Concord plant in this 2008 file photo. A Muslim man says he was discriminated against because of his religion and was sexually harassed at S&D Coffee & Tea. John D. Simmons - jsimmons@charl

A Muslim man says he was discriminated against because of his religion and also was sexually harassed at Concord’s S&D Coffee & Tea, a nearly century-old mainstay of the community.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a religious discrimination complaint this week with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the custom coffee maker, and said in a statement that the man was harassed based on religion and national origin, and was forced to resign.

The man, Jaber Hassan, is of Iraqi descent and is being represented by CAIR Legal Defense Fund in his complaint.

The statement claims that S&D was notified that employees were harassing Hassan, including one supervisor who Hassan said sexually harassed him. Other employees called him racial slurs and harassed him about his religious beliefs, according to the statement.

The EEOC complaint says the discrimination took place from Aug. 21, 2017 to this month.

An S&D representative said Wednesday that the company had not received a formal complaint.

“S&D Coffee is an equal opportunity employer and is committed to diversity and inclusion in the workplace,” the company said in a statement. “Our policies prohibit all forms of discrimination and harassment, and we value our diversity... The well-being of our employees is our highest priority, therefore, we are taking this matter very seriously and looking into it further.”

The complaint says S&D Coffee did not appropriately prevent or stop the harassment.

“S&D Coffee, Inc. owes a duty to its employees to cultivate a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment in every form,” CAIR staff attorney Zanah Ghalawanji said. “A workplace that cannot facilitate these basic teachings of humaneness and professionalism are wholly unacceptable.”

Hassan declined to comment on the complaint through CAIR lawyers.

There was a 17% increase in bias-motivated incidents against American Muslims from 2016 to 2017, A CAIR civil rights report from last year says.

S&D Coffee Inc. was bought by Cott Corp. in 2016 for $355 million. At the time, a spokeswoman told the Observer the company employed 732 people at its Concord facilities.

The Concord company continued to operate under its name as a subsidiary of Cott. S&D started in Charlotte in 1927.

It roasts about 600,000 pounds of coffee each day, equal to producing 56 million cups of coffee daily, according to the S&D website. And it blends 120,000 pounds of iced tea per day, the equivalent of 23 million glasses of the drink.

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Hannah Smoot covers business in Charlotte, focusing on aviation and health care. She previously covered money and power at The Rock Hill Herald in South Carolina. She is a lifelong North Carolinian and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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