Another court holds mistaken discrimination is unmistakably illegal

Back when the WWE was the WWF, there was a tag team that were the heels of professional wrestling: The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff.

Goddammit! Like three-quarters of you have already clicked away.

The rest of you, stick with me, I’m building to a crescendo.

Now, the Iron Sheik was billed as hailing from Teheran, Iran, and Nikolai Volkoff from the Soviet Union. He even sang the anthem.

But, did you know that Nikolai Volkoff isn’t really from the Soviet Union? In “real life,” he’s Josip Nikolai Peruzović from Croatia.

Imagine all the slurs and epithets that were hurled at “Nikolai” during the height of the Cold War — before Rocky ended it — by fans who honestly thought that the wrestler was Russian scum.

If this case of mistaken identify happened at work and culminated in Nikolai losing his job because his employer thought he was Russian, would he have a claim for perceived national origin discrimination?

According to a recent federal court decision, he would!

When an employee is subjected to discrimination on the basis of “the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group,” such as a foreign accent, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that the perpetrator of the discrimination is motivated by the employee’s own national origin, even if that national origin is different from the one perceived by the perpetrator. To conclude otherwise would be to allow discrimination to go unchecked where the perpetrator is too ignorant to understand the difference between individuals from different countries or regions, and to provide causes of action against only those knowledgeable enough to target only those from the specific country against which they harbor discriminatory animus.

It this judge saying that wrestling fans, like me, are ignorant? Ok, maybe not. I’ll shut up now and let the Court continue:

Discrimination where the employer is mistaken in his belief that an employee is of a particular national origin is just as insidious as discrimination where the employer is correct, because the culpability of the employer and the hardship suffered by the employee are the same, and the employee is adversely impacted by a characteristic that Congress has decided should be irrelevant in the employment context.

True OG fans of the blog know that this isn’t the first time we’ve dealt with discrimination and mistaken identities. And, once again, it’s just as unlawful.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to finish watching Rey Mysterio’s Top 10 WWE Moments of all time.


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