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SMART is not so Smart - Chaldean awarded half-million dollars
By Rita Abro :: Sunday, June 10, 2012 :: 83599 Views :: Article Rating :: Law & Order, Chaldean Justice League
Michigan, Detroit — A case brought to you by CHALDEAN.org back in early 2000 is reaching its conclusion.  For Chaldean Mazyn  Barash the nightmare is over and justice is finally being served.  For over eight years Barash has been fighting the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation for infringing his Civil Rights.  This week the Michigan Civil Rights Commission has awarded nearly half a million dollars to Mr. Barash, a former Chaldean employee who was the victim of ongoing harassment and abuse by managers and co-worker of SMART because of his Iraqi descent.  

“He went through hell and he stood courageously for his rights,” says Amar Bahri, who has been watching the case closely.  “He may not know it, but he has helped the Chaldean community a great deal.  He has helped stand against such injustice that Chaldeans face every day in schools, at work, and when trying to find jobs in Michigan.  God bless him and I hope other Chaldeans are able to stand as strong as he has.”

“Nothing can replace the years of torment my client has suffered at the hands of his employer,” said Attorney and Michigan Advisory Board Chairman Shereef Akeel in a statement. “But Mazyn has been a champion in his efforts to rid discrimination in the workplace.”

The now 55-year-old Barash, who left SMART in 2004, said Friday he’s relieved but upset it took so long. The Farmington Hills man said threats and slurs started after 2001′s terrorist attacks and intensified near the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

The award includes $150,000 for mental and emotional distress, $68,000 for lost wages and $124,000 in fees for his attorneys. With interest from the time Barash filed the initial complaint in June 2004, that comes to more than $450,000.

On May 21 the Michigan Civil Rights Commission (MCRC) met  in Lansing where they reviewed and concluded with a final order in the Barash v. SMART  for the Chaldean man from Farmington Hills over $218,000 in damages.

Back in 2003 when Barash was being discriminated, harassed, and taunted by other employees reported the action of his employees to his superintendent Keith Taylor.  Instead of taking professional action Taylor joined the effort and told Barash "the fun is just beginning," a claim that Taylor would later admit to in court.

Barash filed his complaints with the MCRC in 2004 when he was put on a leave of absence due to increased hostility against him at work.  He was eventually terminated from the company in 2007, and since then he has remained unemployed but determined to move forward with the case which has seen many twists and turns.

Among them includes SMART filing an appeal against the MCRC after they had originally found the company to be liable and required them to compensate Barash in the case. The company's reason for appealing when they filed at the Ingham Country Circuit Court last November was that the MCRC based the decision off of "lack of evidence."

Barash is still disappointed that SMART refuses to send the discriminating employees to training or punishing the employees or superintendents that admitted to taunting him. Not only do those individuals still work for the company, but some received promotions.

"It’s important to note that even during the commissions hearing on May 21, SMART showed absolutely no remorse and was still trying to justify the discrimination and my termination.  SMART has had many opportunities to ensure a discrimination free work environment prior to and after the MCRC charge, but chose to thumb their nose at the civil rights department and actually promoted more discrimination, retaliation and even terminated me during the civil rights proceeding," Barash stated.

The MCRC also ordered a cease and desist against the company from further discriminating against any employees in the workplace. Along with awarding Barash damages in the commission's final order, they also deemed that SMART was liable for paying over $120,000 in attorney charges for both the law firms that were representing Barash. Previously SMART had suggested that Barash be held liable for all attorney fees pertaining to the case

Barash suggests that the amount SMART owes him pales in comparison to the amount the company has spent all these years on attorney fees to try and fight this case instead of co-operating with his claims.
"The MCRC's six figure award will not discourage SMART because they have spent tax payers money to an outside law firm for the last 8 years to justify the discrimination and will continue to spend more," Barash added.

Allegations of SMART’s  continued abuse and corruption are rampant in Michigan.  Many riders and former employees speak of SMART’s discriminatory practices and cronyism.   Barash not only cites irresponsibility on SMART's behalf for the long tenure of this case, but he also points out that there were biased people who he feels had a hidden agenda working in favor of the company.  He cites Barry Goldman, a hearing officer who originally justified SMART's employee’s actions toward Barash as being "a natural part of the political climate," when the MCRD originally held the company liable.  

In his 2010 decision, Goldman wrote that the racial abuse Barash suffered was not an issue because: "The United States was in a war. ... Many Americans had strong feelings about that war and the right to express those feelings."

It was later discovered that Goldman’s close sister and SMART's lead attorney's daughter are very good friends, which leave an appearance of impropriety and have cost taxpayers nearly half a million.