Man Called “Borat” Can Bring A Claim For National Origin And Race Discrimination

A man who was repeatedly subjected to name-calling could bring a claim for racial and national origin discrimination.

According to a federal judge in Zayadeen v. Abbott Molecular, Inc., a Jordanian-American man who was routinely called “Borat” and otherwise mocked because of his heritage could bring a claim of discrimination under the “hostile work environment” theory of racial and national origin discrimination.

As the EEOC explains national origin discrimination, “National origin discrimination means treating someone less favorably because he or she is from a particular place, because of his or her ethnicity or accent, or because it is believed that he or she has a particular ethnic background. National origin discrimination also means treating someone less favorably at work because of marriage or other association with someone of a particular nationality.”

If you have questions about national origin or race discrimination, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Georgia employment discrimination attorney.

National origin discrimination can manifest itself in a number of ways–accent discrimination, English fluency and English-only rules, and ethnic slurs are just some of the forms that national origin discrimination can take. Whatever the basis of the discrimination, your employer may not take adverse action against you because of your national origin. This also includes harassment, such as name-calling or abuse because of your national origin. Also, like the other anti-discrimination laws, the national origin discrimination rules also prohibit retaliation against you for complaining about national origin discrimination or for participating in someone else’s national origin discrimination case. Regardless of your citizenship status, you are protected against national origin discrimination.

In the recent case, the Jordanian man, Zayadeen, began working as a financial analyst at Abbott Laboratories in 2004 and then joined Abbott Molecular as a senior financial analyst in 2007. Shortly after he joined Abbott Molecular, several co-workers including Nick Semedalas, began calling to Zayadeen Borat, based on the film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit of Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

He was also subjected to a variety of alleged harassing actions including:

• Being belittled for speaking Arabic. Semedalas told Zayadeen that Arabic was a “dirty language.”
• Mocked for eat Jordanian food. Semedalas said Jordanian food resembled “dog food.”

These comments were made in an open area and overheard by many in the company.
The person who was responsible for most of the harassing behavior – Semedalas – was later promoted and became Zayadeen’s supervisor. When Zayadeen took an approved leave in 2009 and tried to return to his job, Semedalas told him the position was no longer available. Zayadeen applied for another 30 different jobs with the company, but was not hired. Zayadeen was then fired when his leave of absence expired.

Based on the long string of harassing behaviors, the court determined that a reasonable jury could find that conclude “routinely being so ridiculed, mostly in the presence of his co-workers and superiors, altered the conditions of Zayadeen’s employment,” and as a result support a claim for racial and national origin discrimination.

Unfortunately discrimination remains an ugly truth in many work places. If you believe that you have been subjected to racial or national origin discrimination please contact the dedicated Atlanta national origin discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate case evaluation.