APALC Files Suit on Sexual Harassment, Lost Wages in Little Dhaka

An edited version of APALC Press Release

Asian Pacific American Legal Center, and the law firm of Caldwell Leslie & Proctor filed a counter lawsuit in Los Angeles on November 18th on behalf of a Bangladeshi worker against her former employer, Desh Management, for sexual harassment and wage theft.  In her countersuit, Ms. Sakina Begum charges Desh Management and its owners with condoning sexual harassment and depriving her of her earned wages.  The case started in February 2010 when Desh Management and its owners—Tahmedur Rahman, Samim Chowdhury, Mohammed Rashid, and Mostak Mir—first sued Ms. Begum for defamation, a retaliatory lawsuit filed to punish her for reporting about the pervasive harassment and sexual battery she suffered at the hands of a supervisor.

Sakina Begum is an immigrant from Bangladesh who speaks limited English.  An accomplished cook and a hard-working employee, Ms. Begum worked as a cook at Desh Management’s Little Dhaka restaurant in Artesia, California for nearly six years until she was fired for reporting about harassment in January, 2010.   

One month before Ms. Begum was fired, in January, 2010, Desh Management hired a supervising male cook,Abdul Wadud, who routinely groped, battered, and demeaned Ms. Begum — the only female employee at the restaurant.

After Desh Management failed to stop the harassment, Ms. Begum sought help from one of the only organizations that had the cultural and linguistic capabilities to help her—the South Asian Network (SAN).

After Ms. Begum contacted SAN, the restaurant owners retaliated by reducing her hours and then firing her.  To add insult to her injuries, Desh Management also refused to pay her earned wages and other job benefits owed to her.  Desh Management then sued Ms. Begum,her husband, and SAN for various claims, most of which were successfully dismissed after APALC filed a motion under California’s law prohibiting strategic lawsuits against public participation.