|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Egyptian Manager Fired Because of National Origin Says: ‘I Had No Idea that the Rippling Effects of September 11 Would Extend So Far'
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it has sued Pesce, Ltd., a Houston-based upscale seafood restaurant, under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act for post-9/11 backlash discrimination by firing Karim El-Raheb, a general manager, because of his Egyptian ancestry shortly after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The case is the EEOC's fifth lawsuit to date charging employers with unlawful backlash discrimination related to the tragic events of September 11, 2001.
The EEOC's suit, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, says that shortly after September 11, 2001, Pesce's Co-Owner Damian C. Mandola began making repeated references in front of the restaurant staff and patrons that Mr. El-Raheb could "pass for Hispanic" and should change his name to "something Latin." Moreover, Mandola fired El-Raheb in November 2001 after openly speculating that his Egyptian name and physical appearance were to blame for Pesce's decline in earnings in the months following the terrorist attacks.
Mr. El-Raheb, who became a naturalized U.S. citizen in December 1986, said: "I had no idea that the rippling effects of September 11 would extend so far. Having my civil rights violated the way they were affected every aspect of my life. I am confident that, through the EEOC, a just result will be achieved."
Prior to his employment with Pesce, Mr. El-Raheb worked for 13 years at the St. Regis hotel in Houston. He attended local high school at the Second Baptist School, skipped his junior year and graduated from Cy-Fair High School in 1984 at the age of 16. Following that, he attended classes at the University of Houston. Mr. El-Raheb and his mother arrived in Houston in 1980 to join his father, who emigrated to the United States from Egypt in 1975 to work as an engineer.
"The EEOC is committed to aggressively litigating post-9/11 backlash discrimination cases when we find the charge has merit and our voluntary settlement efforts prove futile," said Jim Sacher, Acting Director of the agency's Houston District Office. "If an employer engages in discriminatory treatment of employees of Middle Eastern ancestry or who practice the Muslim faith because of the tragic events of September 11, that company should expect to be held accountable."
National origin discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment or pregnancy) or national origin and protects employees who complain about such offenses from retaliation. The EEOC filed suit after its conciliation efforts to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement were unsuccessful. The agency is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in employment discrimination as well as back wages, compensatory damages, punitive damages and other relief for Mr. El-Raheb.
Rose Adewale-Mendes, EEOC's Acting Regional Attorney in Houston, said: "The filing of the lawsuit sends a message to employers that the EEOC will enforce federal law by prosecuting companies that disregard the laws prohibiting discrimination against innocent individuals based on stereotypical assumptions about their religion or ethnicity."
Since September 11, 2001, the EEOC has received more than 800 charge filings nationwide alleging post-9/11 backlash discrimination by individual who are – or who are perceived to be – Muslim, Arab, Afghani, Middle Eastern, South Asian, or Sikh. The two most frequent issues alleged are discharge and harassment. Nearly 100 individuals aggrieved by 9/11-related employment discrimination have received over $1,425,000 in monetary benefits through EEOC's enforcement, mediation, conciliation, and litigation efforts. The Commission has also been at the forefront of the federal government in conducting vigorous outreach and education to both the employer and labor communities at the national and grassroots levels to prevent such discrimination and promote voluntary compliance with the law.
In addition to enforcing Title VII, the EEOC enforces the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which protects workers age 40 and older from discrimination based on age; the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits gender-based wage discrimination; the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the federal sector; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on July 10, 2003.
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