In September of 2017, Mr. Zanial rented SBEA's recreational lake in Wichita to host a party celebrating Malaysian Independence Day and Eid-al Adhara. The celebration included a Malaysian flag and involved guests of Malaysian Indian ancestry, some of whom were wearing hijabs.
Following the party, SBEA filed a complaint with Spirit Aerosystems, Zanial’s employer, alleging that Zanial and his guests were in possession of an ISIS flag and were conducting an ISIS meeting on SBEA property. In response, Spirit Aerosystems filed a complaint with the FBI, alleging that a “group dressed in Muslim garb” with “an American flag desecrated with ISIS symbols” had gathered on the property.
In October, after speaking to Zanial and determining that the “desecrated flag” was a Malaysian flag, the FBI closed its investigation, deeming the Spirit report "not credible." SBEA, however, obtained a private investigator to continue investigating the incident and terminated Zanial’s rental benefits. At no point in time did SBEA personally discuss the allegations with Zanial before terminating those benefits, and he was not notified of the termination until he again tried to reserve the recreational facilities at a later date.
The entire ordeal, including being investigated by the FBI needlessly simply because he hosted a family party at SBEA's lake and they stereotyped him as a security threat, has caused Zanial to experience a great deal of stress and anxiety. He is concerned that the investigation could affect his lawful permanent resident status and feels distress and humiliation based on this experience of being singled out because of his ethnicity, race and religion.
The ACLU of Kansas calls on the Court to enter a permanent injunction directing SBEA to take all affirmative steps necessary to remedy the effects of the illegal and discriminatory incident and award Zanial compensatory damages for the distress he has endured.
In January 2019, SBEA filed a response to the ACLU of Kansas’ suit, claiming that its discriminatory actions against Mr. Zanial were not enough to constitute legally defined harm and asserting Mr. Zanial failed to show an actual contract loss related to SBEA’s report to his employer and instigation of an FBI investigation. SBEA asked the court for, on these grounds, dismissal.
SBEA’s motion rests on a complete misinterpretation of the Civil Rights Act. Additionally, the discovery process revealed amongst the SBEA board members, specifically through SBEA Board President Dallas Burrow’s public Facebook posts, a pervasive intolerance easily interpreted as exclusive and hostile towards non-white people and other groups labeled as “un-American.”
On February 1, 2019, we filed our response arguing that SBEA has, in fact, caused Mr. Zanial harm through its intentional discrimination on the basis of our client’s race, ethnicity, and national origin. By inciting investigations against him, SBEA impacted Mr. Zanial’s relationship with his employer and his access to the accommodations granted to him by his SBEA membership.
On April 16, 2019, a district court judge denied SBEA's motion to dismiss.