Ex-Arlington Heights cop alleges discrimination based on his Assyrian heritage

  • A former Arlington Heights police officer alleges in a lawsuit filed this week he was discriminated against by fellow members of the department on the basis of race and national origin.

      A former Arlington Heights police officer alleges in a lawsuit filed this week he was discriminated against by fellow members of the department on the basis of race and national origin. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer, December 2018

 
 
Updated 10/21/2020 11:21 PM

A fired Arlington Heights police officer says in a lawsuit filed this week he was discriminated against because of his Assyrian and Iraqi heritage by colleagues, including the former police chief.

Attorneys for Anfiny J. Eshoo, a patrol officer from May 2016 until his termination in January, said in a federal filing their client was subjected to repeated and continuous comments about his national origin and race throughout his employment, including being called and referred to as the "Taliban," among other slurs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Upon being served with the lawsuit Wednesday, Village Manager Randy Recklaus said in a statement the village "takes all such allegations very seriously, investigating them thoroughly, and taking all remedial measures deemed necessary." And he wrote in an email, "The village will defend this case vigorously."

The lawsuit alleges that during an Oct. 30, 2018, interaction with then Police Chief Gerald Mourning, the chief commented on Eshoo's beard and said, "You look like a terrorist."

Other officers heard the comment, and Eshoo was commonly referred to as a terrorist by co-workers, his attorneys wrote.

The next day, Eshoo said he found a photo of bearded terrorist suspects from the Sept. 11 bombings in his mailbox.

He said he often found stickers, cartoons and other items reflecting slurs, according to the suit.

The suit also states officers would play Muslim music on their computers around Eshoo.

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After Eshoo filed a human resources complaint in May 2019 alleging a hostile work environment and race discrimination, village HR Director Mary Rath wrote in a September 2019 memo that Mourning's comment was "inappropriate," according to the suit.

In light of that comment and the "significant amount of inappropriate banter that takes place within the police department," Rath wrote, officials recommended anti-harassment training for supervisory and nonsupervisory department employees.

But the suit states Rath told Eshoo there had been no adverse employment action taken against him or negative treatment as a result of his race, ethnicity or national origin, despite conduct by police that could be considered contrary to the village's anti-harassment policy.

Eshoo's attorneys allege he was denied promotions because of his background.

Recklaus noted Eshoo previously filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but it was dismissed in August after an investigator was unable to conclude there was any violation of applicable statutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The village is committed to providing an inclusive working environment for all of our employees," Recklaus said in his email.

The police department brought a complaint against Eshoo in April 2019 arising from a Feb. 22, 2019, call, alleging his failure to properly enforce an order of protection, the suit states.

In July, he was placed on administrative leave amid an internal affairs probe in which he was accused of failing to properly conduct a preliminary investigation of a domestic battery, according to the suit.

Eshoo alleges he was fired Jan. 6, for no legitimate reason and only after he had requested leave to care for his ailing father.

Eshoo, of Palatine, is seeking a jury trial, wages and benefits he would have received but for the alleged discrimination, compensatory damages, and an injunction requiring the village to adopt employment practices and policies in accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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