Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"No can do, Mamdouh!"

If your name is Lakshminarayan Subrahmaniam but your boss insists over your repeated objections on calling you “Luke”, tell him in the name of El-Hakem that you no longer have to put up with it!

The case of El-Hakem v. BJY Inc. et al., Nos. 03-35514, 03-35544 and 03-35063, 2005 WL 1692470 (9th Cir. July 21, 2005) involved a CEO who continuously refused to call an Arab employee by his given name, Mamdouh El-Hakem. Instead, the CEO chose to lovingly call him by the more Westernized name “Manny”. The CEO, Gregg Young, claimed that he called El-Hakem "Manny" to better his chances of advancement and to make him "more acceptable" to the company’s clientele. Even though El-Hakem objected numerous times, Young left him only with the alternative of calling El-Hakem “Hank”. The 9th circuit ordered $30,000 in damages to be paid both by the CEO and by the company, holding that the company was liable for race discrimination.

The Court held that because "names are often a proxy for race and ethnicity," Young’s repeated intentional failure to address El-Hakem by his given name created a hostile environment that would have been offensive to a reasonable Arab. The Court found that the frequency and severity of the Young’s conduct, which were consistent and lasted for almost a year, was enough to support the verdict in favor of the plaintiff. Because Young was acting in the course and scope of his employment whenever he called El-Hakem "Manny", the Court held that the company could be held vicariously liable for Young's actions.

"If the pink slip doesn't fit,
get redressed!"
Link to see my wardrobe of remedies.

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