Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Getting his name back

Mamdouh El-Hakem, represented by my favorite law firm Lawless & Lawless, has just won an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit of a workplace discrimination suit. His former employer, Gregg Young of BJY Inc., insisted on substituting "Manny" for "Mamdouh" and "Hank" for "El-Hakem."

Well, who would want to be called "Manny Hank"? Not Mamdouh. He brought a complaint of harrassment in the workplace and won.

Justin Scheck of The Recorder writes,

Employment defense lawyers agreed with Lawless -- and with the court -- that imposing a name change amounted to discrimination, even if racial or ethnic epithets were never used.

"It's a message to employers that these kinds of actions, which may seem insignificant or trivial to some people, will lead to liability," said Richard Curiale, a partner at Curiale Dellaverson Hirschfeld & Kraemer who represents employers.

He said the most surprising part of the case is that it went as far as the 9th Circuit. "I would have said, 'Let's settle the case, or we'll lose,'" he said, adding that in training courses his firm tells managers to avoid behavior that treats employees differently.

Jeffrey Wohl, ... who defends employers, also agreed with the court. He said that employers should understand that differential treatment for any reason can open a company up to litigation.

"Discrimination means treating people differently and adversely because of a particular characteristic," he said. But this broad definition, he added, isn't always clear to employers.

Related post
Turning tail on sexual harrassment (7/19/05)

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