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A slur is a slur, no matter the language–and deserves harsh discipline

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

You don’t tolerate slurs spoken in English, do you? Then don’t put up with vile, intolerant and demeaning speech in other languages. It’s the content that matters, not the language spoken.

Recent case: Haitham, who is of Lebanese national origin and speaks Arabic, worked for the Papa John’s chain of pizza shops. The company has a training program that seeks to promote managers from within. Employees who participate in it must accept the first location offered for training. Otherwise, they lose their eligibility.

Haitham wanted to enter the program and went to an interview. There, several managers from different stores discussed the participation requirements. When Haitham learned he might have to take a transfer out of state to a South Carolina shop, he became irate and muttered the Arabic word “sharmuta” at one of the female managers interviewing him.

Two managers at the interview recognized the term. In Arabic, it is an insult meaning “whore” or “bitch.” The slur didn’t go over well and Papa John’s fired Haitham.

He sued, alleging that he was the victim of national origin and other discrimination, and that the managers were all lying.

The court sided with Papa John’s, concluding that it made no sense for all the managers to lie about the slur. It said the company had good reason to fire Haitham that had nothing to do with his national origin. (Hamdan v. Papa John’s, No. 1:11-CV-831, MD NC, 2012)

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