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January 31, 2013 / Jaspreet Tiwana

Former Store Manager Terminated for Accent

Chicago furniture store, “The Roomplace,” has been sued in Cook County, Illinois state court by one of its former assistant managers, Ashraft Dabbah. Mr. Dabbah, a man of Middle Eastern decent, for implementing a policy replacing store managers “with an accent.”  Dabbah is seeking lost wages and damages stemming from defamation and breach of contract.

TheRoomPlaceCicero_storeMr. Dabbah worked for the predecessor of Roomplace, Harlem Furniture, for seven years, after which he took a higher paying job at Walmart in 2011. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Dabbah was asked to return to work for Roomplace and was given strong reassurances that his job would be secure. In fact, Mr. Dabbah was told that he could not lose his job absent “stealing from the company.” Accordingly, Mr. Dabbah rejoined Roomplace in March 2012. Upon learning that Mr. Dabbah wanted to one day open a competing furniture store, Mr. Dabbah was subjected to ongoing harassment and disparate treatment by management. Despite such harsh treatment, Mr. Dabbah continued to perform his duties successfully, moving his particular store to being ranked third out twenty-seven stores. Upon receiving negative feedback from social media about managers with accents, Roomplace retained a consulting firm, which advised them to replace managers with speaking accents with managers who did not have accents. As a result, Roomplace began placing increased pressure on existing managers with accents to make efforts to lose or lessen their accents, and began to seek grounds for termination for such managers. On or about September 11, 2012, Roomplace’s HR department contacted Mr. Dabbah and told him that an unidentified employee had informed them that Mr. Dabbah was viewing pornography at work and creating a hostile workplace. Understandably, Mr. Dabbah was humiliated by this unfounded allegation, and was terminated on September 24, 2012. Mr. Dabbah subsequently requested his personnel file, in which he discovered an email between management titled: “things that have happened that our store is unhappy with.” The email contained allegations that Mr. Dabbah would walk up and down the aisles talking on his cell phone and sometimes would speak in Arabic, all in plain view of customers. Mr. Dabbah has claimed the vast majority of such allegations are false.

Such conduct by Roomplace is in violation of federal law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits an employer from firing or disciplining an employee because of their race or national origin. This type of employment practice also violates California Law with regards to racial discrimination under FEHA.

If you feel you have been the victim of racial discrimination by your employer, please contact Khorrami, LLP for a private consultation.

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