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Bosnian refugee in Clearwater sues Cox Heating & Air Conditioning, claiming discrimination at work over Muslim heritage

CLEARWATER — A Clearwater man says his employer looked the other way when co-workers repeatedly called him "terrorist" and joked about his Muslim and Bosnian heritage, according to a complaint filed in federal court in Tampa last week.

Sanidin Tursic, 28, whose nickname is Sonny, complained about discrimination to his supervisor at Cox Heating & Air Conditioning, "but nothing was done," the complaint alleges.

Cox, based in Clearwater, declined to discuss the case.

"It's in litigation and I'm not going to comment," Cox general manager Martin Moskowitz said Wednesday.

Tursic's lawsuit also says he was treated differently from other workers, reprimanded for being a minute late to work on Dec. 30, 2008, and was given an ultimatum to put up with the discipline or leave. He chose to leave that day.

"I started thinking something worse would happen if I stayed there," Tursic said last week.

A refugee of the Bosnian war, Tursic and his family came to the United States from Germany in 1998 to settle in Iowa. They moved to Jacksonville several years later. Tursic and his girlfriend came to Clearwater in 2006.

That year, Tursic was hired by Cox. He started working at the shop and later in the field installing heating and air conditioning systems.

His case lists about a dozen allegations of discriminatory behavior from Cox workers and his superiors.

Among them, that:

• One co-worker programmed Tursic's phone number as "Terrorist" in his cellular phone.

• Workers made up songs about riding camels and being a terrorist.

• Workers would make fun of genocide in Bosnia.

Tursic's lawsuit also seeks unpaid wages and overtime pay, claiming he was not paid for work he was required to do off the job site.

His lawsuit also seeks lost wages, benefits, compensatory and punitive damages and attorney's fees and costs.

Tursic said his girlfriend, who is Bosnian and Catholic, persuaded him to see a lawyer.

"People need to know about it," Tursic said.

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4155.

Bosnian refugee in Clearwater sues Cox Heating & Air Conditioning, claiming discrimination at work over Muslim heritage 06/10/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 7:03pm]
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