U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Iraqi-American Employee Subjected to Ethnic Slurs and Mocking, Federal Agency Charged
PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission today announced that it has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing hotel company TOG, which owns the Four Points by Sheraton in Phoenix, of discriminating against an employee by subjecting him to a hostile work environment because of his Iraqi national origin. The EEOC also charged that by allowing the continued and escalating workplace harassment, the defendants forced the employee to resign.
According to the EEOC’s suit, EEOC v. TOG Enterprises, doing business as Four Points by Sheraton, et al., (Case No. CV-10-1230-PHX-SRB), employee Basil Massih was subjected to unlawful harassment by the defendants because of his Iraqi national origin. The alleged harassment included mimicking Massih’s accent, ethnic slurs such as “camel jockey,” mocking Arab ululations, and taunting and jeering at Massih relating to news stories about Iraq and the capture of terrorists. The EEOC alleges that Massih complained to a number of managers about the national origin harassment, but that management failed to take corrective action, and that the continued harassment resulted in intolerable working conditions for Massih.
Such alleged national origin harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment) and national origin.
“Employers have an affirmative duty to protect employees from discrimination and harassment,” said Mary Jo O’Neill, regional attorney for the Phoenix District Office. “When a company has notice of national origin harassment, it has a legal obligation to promptly and effectively remedy the situation.”
Rayford O. Irvin, acting director for the Phoenix District Office, said, “Title VII provides that employees are entitled to work and keep their dignity. No employee should ever have to sacrifice his or her identity in order to keep a job. National origin harassment wrongfully denies employees equal opportunity in the workplace.”
The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court. The agency is seeking monetary relief, including back wages, and compensatory and punitive damages for Massih. The EEOC is also seeking an injunction prohibiting future harassment and discrimination. Finally, the agency seeks other equitable relief.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.