A federal court (opinion here) has determined that a Jordanian employee nicknamed “Borat” by his co-workers can proceed to trial on his claims of race and national-origin discrimination.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. Borat isn’t from Jordan. He’s from Kazakhstan (NSFW). So how can Borat the Jordanian claim discrimination?
Readers of this blog know that mistaken religious discrimination is illegal. And, in the Borat example, so is mistaken national-origin discrimination. Indeed, it can still happen even if the Jordanian employee’s harassers didn’t know he was from Jordan. As the court noted, it is enough for a plaintiff to show that he was treated differently because of his foreign accent, appearance or physical characteristics.
And if the harassers knew that the Jordanian employee was from Jordan? The Borat comments could still tee up a race-discrimination claim if the harassers intentionally conflated Arab and Kazakh identities. Otherwise, the teasing would make so sense.
VW may be able to get away with joking about foreign accents during the Super Bowl, but don’t tolerate employees who engage in similar workplace hijinks.