EEOC and Civil Rights Attorneys Sue Bay Area Solar Company Over Policy of Refusing to Do Business with Customers Whose Names “Sounded Middle Eastern or Indian”

Contact

Marisa Díaz - Staff Attorney, National Origin and Immigrants' Rights Program, Legal Aid at Work, (415) 864-8848, x217
mdiaz@legalaidatwork.org
Beth W. Mora - Managing Partner and Owner, Mora Employment Law APC, (925) 820-8949
bmora@moraelaw.com

San Francisco, CA (March 7, 2019)—A Bay Area woman filed a federal civil rights lawsuit today, alleging that her former employer had a policy of refusing to do business with customers that it believed to be of Middle Eastern or Indian origin, and that it required her to carry it out.

Ayesha Faiz was a supervisor in a call center for Fidelity Home Energy, Inc., a San Leandro-based company that sells solar equipment to homeowners. In her federal complaint, she alleges that she was instructed by Fidelity to not process customer leads with homeowners whose names “sounded Middle Eastern or Indian.”

Faiz—who, unbeknownst to her employer, was herself of Middle Eastern descent, having immigrated from Afghanistan when she was one—claims in her lawsuit that Fidelity’s policy created a hostile and oppressive work environment that forced her to leave her job after just three weeks.

Faiz is not alone in seeking to hold Fidelity accountable for this discriminatory practice.  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also filed suit against the company today based on the same conduct.

“The toxic and reprehensible policy Ayesha was forced to implement didn’t just run afoul of California’s consumer laws:  it also violated federal and state civil rights laws that guarantee all employees the right to a workplace that is free of discrimination,” said Beth W. Mora, one of Faiz’s attorneys.  “Fidelity’s working environment was thoroughly permeated with discrimination against persons of Middle Eastern or Indian descent.  Obviously, that had a devastating impact on Ayesha herself.”

“Our society should be far beyond the point where discrimination against any group is acceptable, let alone serve as a company’s standard operating procedure,” said Marisa Díaz, a staff attorney with Legal Aid at Work, who also represents Faiz.  “No employee should be forced to take part in such discrimination as the price of her job.”

Discrimination against persons based on their names is, unfortunately, a widespread and well-documented phenomenon, occurring in the real estate industry, the employment context, and elsewhere. For example, studies have found that landlords, rental hosts, and employers disproportionately reject rental or job applicants based on them having Arab- or African-American-sounding names. Companies have also been found to charge higher prices for the same products to consumers who have Muslim-sounding names.

Faiz is represented by Beth W. Mora of Mora Employment Law APC and Marisa Díaz and Christopher Ho of Legal Aid at Work.

A copy of the Plaintiff’s complaint can be found here.  The EEOC’s complaint can be found here.  And the EEOC’s own press release regarding its complaint can be found here.

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Legal Aid at Work (www.legalaidatwork.org)

 Legal Aid at Work is a nonprofit legal services organization that has been assisting low-income, working families for more than 100 years. Its programs conduct outreach, provide direct legal services to thousands of people each year, engage in litigation, and advocate for policies that strengthen the rights of low-wage workers and their communities.

Mora Employment Law APC (moraemploymentlaw.com)

Mora Employment Law represents employees only who have been victimized in the workplace. We are zealous and skilled advocates for those facing a wide range of employment law issues for which the firm is committed to aggressively pursuing our clients’ best interests throughout all stages of litigation. Mora Employment Law treats each person we serve with integrity and compassion.

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