ITHACA, N.Y. — A federal discrimination lawsuit filed against Ithaca by a former city firefighter has been dismissed “in its entirety,” according to court records filed this week.

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Mark Hassan, who was fired by the Ithaca Fire Department in April 2011, sued the city on the grounds that he was harassed and discriminated against in part because of his Middle Eastern ancestry.

Hassan claimed that after 9/11 he began hearing his co-workers direct racial epithets at him and was treated differently in internal disciplinary procedures.

“Plaintiff began to hear co-workers and his superiors use the following terms in relation to individuals of middle eastern descent: ‘sand nigger,’ ‘dune coon” and ‘towel head,’” says one summary of the lawsuit.

“He states that employees of the fire department made such comments at least weekly and continuously throughout the remainder of his employment.”

City’s position vindicated

On Wednesday, however, federal Judge Michael A. Telesca granted Ithaca’s motion for summary judgement and in a one-page ruling threw out Hassan’s lawsuit.

Ithaca has consistently denied Hassan’s allegations. In a lengthy 33-page response (embedded at the bottom of this story) filed in May, Ithaca’s attorneys attacked Hassan’s character, say that he was the one who used racist terms to describe his co-workers, and accuse him of “ranting and yelling and engaging in loud, disruptive behavior.”

Additionally, the defense in the case argued that Hassan’s own account of the racial epithets directed at him had changed over time and weren’t consistent.

Lawsuit’s dismissal in line with judge’s previous positions

It has seemed clear for some time that Judge Telesca would be unlikely to look favorably on Hassan’s lawsuit. As early as 2012, Telesca was dismissing portions of Hassan’s lawsuit — below, for instance, was his justification for throwing out Hassan’s claims of First Amendment retaliation.

“While (Hassan) alleges that certain of his co-workers have made stray derogatory remarks regarding individuals of middle eastern descent since September 11, 2001, he has not alleged any instances of discrimination against anyone other than himself,” Telesca wrote.

“He has not alleged that there were other individuals of middle eastern descent employed by the fire department during this time period, that such individuals felt that these stray comments were discriminatory or created a hostile work environment, or that these remarks were even heard by individuals of middle eastern descent other than himself.”

City's defense in Hassan case

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.