Reporting Brad Edwards
(CBS) – Afram Boutros went from a rent-a-car bus driver, to U.S. Army translator, to now plaintiff in a federal lawsuit with former employer Avis Rent A Car System with claims of “severe and pervasive” harassment.
The lawsuit includes the claim that Boutros was, “… asked whether his father and brothers were on the planes that crashed into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 …”
“It made me feel very bad,” said Boutros. “Really very bad because I’m not a terrorist.”
“It points to a post-9/11 racism in this country against Middle Easterners,” said Boutros’s attorney James Glass. “And that is not the American way.”
And Boutros is not a Muslim.
“Yes, it’s a cross, I believe in Jesus,” said Boutros showing a crucifix tattooed on his arm.
“I was born in Lebanon Beirut and raised as a Christian Assyrian,” said Boutros.
Boutros began working at Avis in 2002. He transported customers O’Hare terminals to Avis pick-up locations at O’Hare International Airport. In 2005, he left.
“I was recruited in the Army,” said Boutros, recalling a meeting with an Army recruiter. “He asked me how many languages I spoke. I told him I speak 5 languages. He asked me if I’m interested to be an American soldier as interpreter, translator — I said sure.”
He returned in 2006 and Avis didn’t want him back, so he sued under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, USERRA.
“So, in this case, they forced me to sue them,” said Boutros.
“Avis settled the suit, they take him back, they pay his attorney fees,” said attorney Jim Glass. “They took him back and immediately embarked on a campaign to harass him: problems with his paychecks; problems with his health insurance.”
“They forced me to work 11, 12 days straight,” said Boutros.
“Why didn’t you just quit?” asked CBS 2’s Brad Edwards.
“I didn’t quit because I love that job and I was number 1 at Avis as a bus driver,” replied Boutros.
Boutros was later terminated in 2008 after he sought medical treatment after an accident that Avis believed was fraudulent.
U.S. District Court Judge John J. Tharp recently denied Avis’ effort to toss the suit, saying Boutros easily satisfied “… evidence that the alleged harassment was “severe or pervasive” …”
“We are Christian 100%,” said Boutros. “Even if I’m Jewish, or Muslim, or Christian, or I don’t have any religion, no one has a right to accuse me [and say] I’m a terrorist.”
The case is set for trial December 16th.
We reached out to Avis for an interview. The company responded saying, “We do not comment on pending litigation.”