Workplace ethics | DE&I worker sues employer over 'Israeli swastika flag' firing

DE&I worker sues employer over 'Israeli swastika flag' firing

Mashal Sherzad, a former Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion manager at the University of Minnesota, has filed a lawsuit against the institution for her termination.

The case comes following controversy over a photograph showing her near an Israeli flag adorned with swastikas.

The Star Tribune reported on the filing, highlighting Sherzad's claims of First Amendment rights violation and discrimination.

Sherzad, who also gained attention as an Instagram model, is known for sharing various online posts, including a photoshoot featuring her holding a Palestinian flag during an anti-Israel protest.

Her employment at the university's School of Public Health began in late October but was abruptly terminated in January.

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The termination stemmed from images surfacing on Sherzad's Facebook page, depicting her participation in a December protest against the Israel-Hamas conflict in Barcelona, Spain.

Among these pictures was one where Sherzad stood near an Israeli flag bearing swastikas.

However, during a recent news conference, Sherzad asserted that the flag belonged to someone else, disavowing responsibility for its content.

In her lawsuit, Sherzad argued that she had originally posted the photos to her private Instagram account and that they were inadvertently shared on her public Facebook profile without her awareness.

Despite the removal of the protest photos from her profile, the university cited her actions as detrimental to her credibility in her DE&I role, particularly given the heightened tensions surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sherzad's disciplinary record reportedly included a November post where she labeled Israel's military actions in Gaza as genocide.

Supporters of Sherzad, including Jaylani Hussein, the executive director for Minnesota's Council on American-Islamic Relations, voiced concerns over what they perceive as ‘unfair’ targeting due to her pro-Palestinian stance.

The University of Minnesota has declined to comment on the ongoing litigation, refraining from providing additional insight into the situation.

While the original controversial flag photo is no longer accessible, Sherzad continues to engage in online activism regarding the ongoing conflict, including reposting content equating Zionism with Nazism.

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