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Press Release 05-07-2012

Phoenix Four Points by Sheraton Settles EEOC National Origin Discrimination Lawsuit

Iraqi-American Employee Subjected to Ethnic Slurs and Mocking to Receive $50,000

PHOENIX – The owner of a Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Phoenix will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to settle a national origin discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC lawsuit accused the hotel company TOG, which owned the Four Points by Sheraton in Phoenix, of discriminating against an employee by subjecting him to a hostile work environment because of his Iraqi national origin.  The EEOC also charged that by allowing the continued and escalating workplace harassment, the defendants forced the employee to resign.  The EEOC and TOG settled this case for $50,000 for Mr. Basil Massih and a Consent Decree. The Federal Court Judge signed the Decree today, which contains an injunction, training, posting, policy changes, and reporting to the EEOC.

According to the EEOC's suit, employee Basil Massih was subjected to unlawful harassment by the defendants because of his Iraqi national origin.  The alleged harassment included mimicking Massih's accent and mocking Arab vocal expressions; ethnic slurs such as "camel jockey"; and taunting and jeering at Massih relating to news stories about Iraq and the capture of terrorists.  The EEOC alleged that Massih complained to a number of managers about the national origin harassment, but that management failed to take corrective action, and that the continued harassment resulted in intolerable working conditions for Massih. 

Such alleged national origin harassment violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment) and national origin.  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. TOG Enterprises, doing business as Four Points by Sheraton, et al., Case No. CV-10-1230-PHX-DAE) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree signed Friday settling the suit provides monetary relief, including back wages and compensatory damages for Massih in the amount of $50,000.  It also contains an injunction prevention any further such discrimination; training; posting of notices about the settlement; policy changes; and reporting to the EEOC.

"Employers have an affirmative duty to protect employees from discrimination and national origin harassment," said Mary Jo O'Neill, regional attorney for the EEOC's Phoenix District Office.  "When a company has notice of harassment, it has a legal obligation to promptly and effectively remedy the situation. In this case, Mr. Massih should never have been subjected to the offensive and racist comments in the first place and the company had a duty to stop the misconduct after he complained. He was simply trying to make a living."

Rayford O. Irvin, director for the Phoenix District Office, said, "Federal law provides that employees are entitled to keep their dignity at work.  No employee should ever have to sacrifice his or her identity in order to keep a job.  National origin harassment wrongfully denies employees equal opportunity in the workplace."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.  Further information is available at