8th Cir: Ok to tell a Middle Eastern worker to “go back home, go to your country.”

As you’ll find out down below, “Minnesota nice” only goes so far dontchaknow.

And, to think I almost bought this shirt in MSP last week. Aw shucks. I regret not buying that shirt. It’s kitchy.

Shoot. Overall, I really like Minnesota. I mean, where else will the ticket-takers at an NFL game use the honor system to instruct an entire bachelor party of classy visiting fans from Philadelphia, dressed to the nines (NSFW – but, yes, some of us wore them*), to discard their full red Solo cups before entering the stadium but after taking their tickets.

(*Not me. I wore a combination of this and this instead. See, full red Solo cups, supra.)

It was all so Minnesota Naive Nice!

From red Solo cups to actual HR-related stuff.

(Put down your Solo cups; it’s 8 am. But, I’m not judging…)

So, what in the holy heck is going on here in this recent Eighth Circuit opinion?!?

We’ve got a Palestinian immigrant working for a local employer. He and a sales manager don’t get along. Our plaintiff reports to HR that the sales manager is coming to work intoxicated. Sales manager claims that the plaintiff is harassing her and acting inappropriately towards customers.

Then, around Thanksgiving, the two get into a spat that results in the sales manager allegedly telling the plaintiff to “go back home, go to your country.”

Well, this gets elevated to a district manager, who investigates. During the investigation, the district manager learns that that the plaintiff alleged that some of the employees called him names like cameljockey, Muslim, Arab, terrorist, and sand n****r. He also claimed to have overheard another employee say “[y]ou should be rounded up in one place and nuke[d].”Yet, as these cases sometimes go, the plaintiff is the one who gets fired.

As these cases always go, the plaintiff sued. The lower court entered summary judgment for the employer on the plaintiff’s claims of hostile work environment and national origin discrimination.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed. But, I’d like to focus on the national-origin claim. While it seems like the evidence wasn’t there to establish that the defendant terminated plaintiff’s employment because of his national origin, this clip has me shakin’ my head like…

The one statement she made about how Abdel-Ghani should go back home was “facially neutral as to national origin” and therefore did not “demonstrate animus on [her] part.” 

Sure, there are times when “context, inflection, tone of voice, local custom, and historical usage” can help discern the speaker’s meaning. But, in these times, there’s nothing benign about telling someone from the Middle East to “go back home, go to your country.” That’s a xenophobic, direct shot at the person’s national origin.

It’s not Minnesota nice either.

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