Employees whose names people associate with a particular religion, origin or ethnicity can't automatically claim that their name led to discrimination. If that were the case, anyone with such a name would have a leg up on other employees in every discrimination case.
Recent case: Mohammed Hussein, born on Fiji and of Indian descent, worked as a pilot during the Sept. 11 attacks. When flights were grounded, Hussein went directly to his hotel's bar. While still in uniform, Hussein allegedly hoisted a toast when the TV flashed photos of the collapsing Twin Towers. The airline fired Hussein for breaking the "no drinking while in uniform" rule.
He sued, and the EEOC took up his case, arguing that Hussein's name triggered the firing. The 8th Circuit disagreed, saying it takes more than a name to infer that a manager would fire that person based on prejudice. Employees must show some level of discriminatory intent, action or motive by the employer. (EEOC v. Trans States Airlines, No. 05-2009, 8th Cir., 2006)
- Employee tried to comply? He may get unemployment
- Good performance reviews don't outweigh later discipline
- Use fair progressive discipline and clear documentation to prove you're not biased
- As the EEOC steps up ADA enforcement, it's time to review policies
- Executive exemption requires true hiring/firing authority