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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Is Telling An Employee “Go Back Where You Came From” A Form of Employment Discrimination?

Lonely African-American businessman in office. Stop racism

Through their decades of experience representing employment discrimination victims, our employment lawyers in Marion County, Florida know that many workers not born in the United States experience egregious discrimination based on their race or national origin. In many cases, the abusive behavior employees not born in the United States endure includes being told by co-workers or supervisors to “go back where you came from.” Courts have determined that the phrase “go back to where you came from” is a discriminatory remark and can create a hostile working environment in violation of federal employment discrimination law. In this article, our employment lawyers in Marion County, Florida explain how the decision in Arkorful v. New York City Department of Education, 2024 WL 298999 (E.D. N.Y. Jan. 24, 2024) shows that a decisionmaker’s use of the phrase “go back to where you came from” is also evidence of a discriminatory employment decision.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

In that case, a man named Arkorful brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against his employer, the New York City Department of Education (the “DOE”), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of color, race, national origin, sex, or religion. Arkorful, who was born in Ghana and identifies as African-American, claims that demoted because of his race and national origin in violation of Title VII.

Arkorful held the position of Team Lead within the DOE’s Division of Instructional and Information Technology (“DIIT”). In late 2015, DIIT proposed a reorganization of the office of the Chief Technology Officer (“CTO”). According to the DOE, the goal was to make the office more efficient. It was eventually determined, as part of this reorganization, that an employee named Beger would move to the position of Team Lead. In March 2016, Arkorful was informed that he would report to Berger, who is white, under the reorganized structure. Arkorful claims that when Berger became his supervisor, Berger basically took over his position as Team Lead.

In March 2016, Arkorful had a meeting at which the complained to a management employee about being stripped of his Team Lead position. Arkorful stated that he believed that, because he was black and from Ghana, he was being treated differently from co-workers who had received promotions.

In April 2016 following the reorganization, Arkorful was asked by a supervisor, Diomede, to train Berger. Arkorful alleges that during his conversation he asked Diomede why he was passed over for promotion, and Diomede cursed and responded: “This is how we do things in America, and if you don’t like it you can go to wherever you came from.” That same month, Arkorful filed a complaint stating that he felt he had been discriminated against on the basis of his race and national origin, and that he was subjected to a systemic pattern of harassment. In May 2016 following Arkorful’s complaint, Berger’s Team Lead assignment was rescinded.

Remark Is Evidence Of Discrimination

The DOE filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Arkorful’s discriminatory demotion claim. In moving for dismissal, the DOE argued that it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason to assign Berger the Team Lead role and strip the Team Lead title from Arkorful because the decision “was part of a reorganization designed to maximize efficiencies.” The trial court denied the DOE’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Arkorful had presented sufficient evidence of a discriminatory demotion to proceed to a jury trial.

In denying the DOE’s motion for dismissal, the trial court focused on the Diomede’s alleged remark that “this is how we do things in America, and if you don’t like it you can go to wherever you came from.” The trial court found that the alleged remark “on its own, but especially when combined with its use as an explanation for why Arkorful was passed over for promotion for a role that went to a white man would allow the jury to infer race and national origin discrimination.” The trial court reasoned that “a comment that attributes an [employee’s] setback to prejudice against a protected category can warrant a finding that legitimate reasons were pretext for discrimination.” “In this case,” the trial court explained, Diomede’s alleged “statement in response to Arkorful’s concern about his treatment, that Arkorful could go back to wherever he came from, lends support to a finding of pretext for DOE’s actions.” In other words, according to the trial court, Diomede’s alleged comment was evidence that Arkorful was demoted because of his race and national origin, and evidence that the proffered reason for Arkorful’s demotion was pretext for discrimination.

Marion County, FL Employment Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our employment attorneys in Citrus County, Florida have litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have experienced workplace discrimination or have questions about your rights as an employment discrimination victim under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employment lawyers in Citrus County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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