San Jose poised to pay $400K to settle police officer’s Islamophobia suit

Nabil Haidar alleged anti-Muslim harassment by his colleagues over a period of years; the city and department argued it was part of off-color banter that he himself participated in

SAN JOSE, Calif. — A former San Jose police officer is set to receive a $400,000 settlement from the city to settle a lawsuit alleging he was the target of constant Islamophobic harassment from his colleagues, a claim the city dismissed as a mischaracterization of off-color banter in which he himself participated.

The settlement, which is detailed in a draft agreement posted on the city’s website on Friday, will be presented to the city council for approval on September 26. The city, as part of its terms, admits no fault or liability for Nabil Haidar’s claims.

The Lebanese-American officer filed a lawsuit against the department in 2018, alleging that he was the target of anti-Muslim remarks and insults that escalated after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He claims that the discriminatory remarks linked him to terrorist organizations and car bombings, and that he was attacked because of his background.

In his lawsuit, Haidar cites a November 2017 police briefing during which a captain was recognizing veterans in the room and a sergeant allegedly said, “Captain, you forgot to mention Nabil.” He was a member of ISIS. He spent two years with ISIS.”

Haidar’s lawyers declined to comment on the proposed settlement because it had not yet been finalized. The City Attorney’s Office did not respond immediately to a request for comment on Friday.

According to city filings, Haidar was a willing participant in the obnoxious conversation that included the insults he claimed in the lawsuit. He allegedly responded to the “ISIS” comments by making a crude remark about the sergeant’s wife and making a joke about his Italian heritage.

In court documents, the city acknowledged that both the sergeant and another officer Haidar accused of making Islamophobic remarks were later given week-long suspensions for their remarks. However, the city’s defense argument implies that Haidar’s lawsuit was motivated in part by his week-long suspension for bias-based misconduct, the first in the department’s history, which he considered unfair given the jokes and comments he overheard his colleagues make.

Haidar also claimed that in the aftermath of his lawsuit, an unknown San Jose police officer used a Twitter pseudonym to insult and harass him and his attorneys on a regular basis. He also claims that in a deposition, police Chief Anthony Mata stated that the account holder was most likely an officer and that his department would “look into” the situation.

According to legal filings, he took medical leave in 2019 and eventually returned to light duty in 2021 before filing for retirement the following year. In addition to suing for monetary damages for his shortened police career, he claimed that the alleged harassment caused him to suffer from depressive and anxiety disorders, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

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