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Mohamed Arafi v. Mandarin Oriental

June 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara J. Rothstein United States District Judge




This matter is before the court on Defendant's motion to dismiss. Plaintiff, a Muslim individual from Morocco and of "Arab ancestry," alleges that his employer, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group ("the Hotel" or "Defendant"), discriminated against him on the basis of his race, color, religion and national origin in violation of various federal and state anti-discrimination laws. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant retaliated against him for complaining about such discrimination. Because Plaintiff fails to allege a materially adverse employment action, the court grants Defendant's motion with respect to his discrimination claims. On the other hand, because Plaintiff has successfully alleged retaliation claims, the court denies Defendant's motion as to those claims.


The following factual summary assumes Plaintiff's allegations to be true. Plaintiff, a Muslim of "Arab ancestry," was born in Morocco and is now a United States citizen. Compl. ¶ 5. Since 2009, he has worked as a valet dry cleaner in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel located in Washington, D.C. Id. ¶ 9. In this position, Plaintiff enters guests' rooms to gather and deliver dry cleaning. Plaintiff often receives tips from the guests that he serves. Id. ¶ 12.

An Israeli delegation stayed on the eighth and ninth floors of the Hotel from December 10, 2010 to December 12, 2010. Compl. ¶¶ 15,17. Plaintiff maintains that the delegation is a regular guest of the United States Department of State and has stayed at the Hotel on various occasions over the past several years. Id. ¶ 16.

On December 10, 2010, Plaintiff's direct supervisor, Ms. Escander, told Plaintiff that he was not allowed to provide services to those guests on the eighth and ninth floors. Id. ¶ 17. When pressed by Plaintiff for further explanation, Ms. Escander allegedly stated, "You know how the Israelis are with Arabs and Muslims." Id. According to Plaintiff, he complied with these instructions for the remainder of his shift and was deprived of the tips from the guests on those floors. Id. ¶ 18.

Upon speaking to his co-workers later that evening, Plaintiff learned that the Hotel had also ordered other employees who were either Arab or Muslim to refrain from entering the floors occupied by the Israeli delegation. Id. ¶ 20. According to Plaintiff, his co-workers went on to explain that Ms. Escander had issued similar instructions on past occasions when the Israeli delegation had stayed at the Hotel. Id. Plaintiff further claims that several of his co-workers later "ridiculed [him] as a potential terrorist, poking him in the stomach to feign checking his body for explosives." Id. ¶ 22.

The following day, December 11, 2010, Plaintiff met with another supervisor to complain about the previous day's events. Id. ¶ 21. In response, that supervisor allegedly stated that "the Israeli delegation [did] not want to be served by [the Hotel's] Muslim employees and that [the Hotel] accommodates this preference because it does not want to lose the Israeli delegation as clients." Id. After the Israeli delegation had already left the Hotel, on December 13, 2010, Plaintiff spoke to Ms. Escander and again complained of his restricted access to the eighth and ninth floors. Id. ¶ 24. According to Plaintiff, Ms. Escander explained that "the Israeli delegation is very selective about who serves them" and that the Hotel had to accommodate those desires, including which hotel workers would serve them. Id. ¶ 25. Ms. Escander allegedly stated that the Israeli delegation did not want to "encounter any Muslim persons while staying at [the] hotel" and suggested that the delegation had specifically refused Plaintiff's services because his first name was Mohammed. Id.

According to Plaintiff, approximately one week later, he met with Ms. Escander and the Hotel's Director of Human Resources for the Hotel. Id. ¶ 28. Plaintiff reiterated his complaints about the prior week's events. Id. In response, the Director of Human Resources advised Plaintiff that the Department of State had conducted background checks on the Hotel's employees in anticipation of the Israeli delegation's visit.*fn1 Id. ¶ 28. These background checks had raised some "irregularities" as to Plaintiff and eleven other hotel employees. Id. The Director indicated that the Hotel did not know what these "irregularities" entailed, explaining that this was a decision made by the Department of State. Id.

From December 19, 2010 to January 20, 2011, the Hotel scheduled Plaintiff to work for only one day. Id. ¶ 30. According to Plaintiff, before December 19, 2010, he regularly worked five to seven days per week. Id. Plaintiff remains employed at the Hotel. Id. ¶ 9.

Plaintiff commenced this suit alleging disparate treatment and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and 1870, as amended and codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), codified at D.C. Code Ann. § 2-1401.01 et seq. See generally Compl. Defendant now moves to dismiss. With ...

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