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Unique Discrimination Risk–Recent Employment Law Case

A recent federal court ruling offers a good reminder of the many unique claims that may be made against employers by their unhappy employees. All Sacramento business owners–from established enterprises to start ups–should be familiar with their risks before trouble arises.

The Situation

Shaw Rahman was employed by Crystal Equation, a staffing company that assigned him to a job with AT&T. Rahman signed more than one document that specifically described his employment as “at-will,” and stated his employment could be terminated at any time.

AT&T requested that Rahman travel to Atlanta for a training conference. Rahman protested as he believed travel was outside of his job description, however he did end up going to Atlanta. Several months later, another staff member left AT&T and Rahman’s supervisor asked him to take over one of the former staff member’s duties, specifically generating security certificates. Rahman stated he was not comfortable completing this work and that it was also outside of his job description. Though his supervisor arranged for training on security certificates, Rahman still refused to complete this specific task. Shortly thereafter, AT&T and Crystal Equation notified Rahman that his position was being eliminated.

Discrimination Claims

Eight months after he was let go, Rahman came forward with allegations against both Crystal Equation and AT&T of unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin and religion. In his claim, Rahman stated that he was a practicing Muslim from Bangladesh whose original first name was not Shaw, but Mohammed.

Rahman claimed that when he went on the business trip to Atlanta, he had been assigned to room #911 in the hotel. He claimed this room assignment was “intended to humiliate and remind him of the events on September 11, 2001” because of his religion and national origin. Rahman reportedly asked for a different room, however no other rooms were available at that time.

The travel arrangements had been made by his recruiter at Crystal Equation, though no travel documents had stated any room assignment. In fact, there was no indication that the room assignment occurred prior to Rahman’s arrival at the hotel. In addition, there was no evidence presented that either employer was aware that Rahman’s first name was actually Mohammed, that he was Muslim, or that he was from Bangladesh. For these reasons, the court found that Rahman did not have a valid discrimination claim against either company.

Furthermore, Rahman stated that his termination was also based on discriminatory reasons and that the stated reasons were merely pretextual. However, the court found no evidence of such discrimination, either. In fact, the court found that AT&T and Crystal Equation both had valid reasons to terminate Rahman, based on the facts that he refused to complete certain assigned training and tasks and also due to department downsizing. For these reasons, the court dismissed Rahman’s claims in favor of the employers.

Get Help

Not every discrimination claim is valid, and employers should not be held liable for unfounded claims. If you have an employment issue, contact an experienced Sacramento business lawyer for help.