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AZAR v. TGI FRIDAY'S

November 15, 1996

FARHOOD AZAR, Plaintiff, against TGI FRIDAY'S, INC., Defendant.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SPATT

 SPATT, District Judge.

 This case concerns a charge of national origin employment discrimination brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The plaintiff, a former employee of the defendant TGI Friday's, Inc., contends that he was discriminated against and discharged at the TGI Friday's Huntington restaurant because he is of Iranian national origin, as evidenced, in part, by referring to the plaintiff as the "Ayatollah" in a persistent and derogatory manner.

 THE TRIAL - FINDINGS OF FACT

 The plaintiff Farhood Azar (the "plaintiff" or "Azar") was born in Tabriz, Iran and arrived in the United States on October 9, 1979. He is married and is presently a United States citizen. Azar speaks with a noticeable foreign accent. The defendant TGI Friday's, Inc. (the "defendant" or "TGI Friday's") is a corporation that owns and operates restaurants which serve a "broad spectrum of different diverse foods" including salads, sandwiches, burgers, pasta and baked foods. (Tr. at 276)* . TGI Friday's also owns an affiliate restaurant known as Dalt's in Addison, Texas.

 Azar had an extended employment history with TGI Friday's restaurants. The plaintiff first worked for the defendant in its Dalt's affiliate in Addison, Texas as a baker prep cook from September 10, 1982 to May 5, 1984. A baker prep cook prepares the baked goods such as cakes and desserts for use in the restaurant. He was then employed by TGI Friday's in Addison, Texas, again as a baker prep cook, from May 10, 1984 to November 15, 1984. Azar was then employed at the TGI Friday's in Plano, Texas as a baker prep cook from February 27, 1985 to April 30, 1985. Then Azar returned to Dalt's as a baker prep cook from May 2, 1985 to May 23, 1985.

 With regard to Azar's first employment in Dalt's, he was disciplined twice for lateness. However, on January 10, 1983, it was noted in his personnel file that he was a "valuable asset to the setup of the salad area. Works fast and organized." (Defendant's Exh. F). On or about May 5, 1984, during a shift at Dalt's, Azar walked out and he was terminated. During his employ at the TGI Friday's at Addison, Azar received a warning for unsatisfactory performance and tardiness (Defendant's Exh. G). While at TGI Friday's at Addison, on October 16, 1984, he was the subject of a "Notation of Incident" in which it was stated "Two hours late for his shift. Action taken warning." (Defendant's Exh. G). Azar was terminated from TGI Friday's at Addison on November 15, 1984 because of "failure to comply with work rules - follow recipes and uncooperative work attitude" (Defendant's Exh. G).

 The Court finds that the plaintiff tried to conceal his prior employments with TGI Friday's and Dalt's by failing to disclose these positions when he filled out a job application on June 17, 1993 (Defendant's Exh. AR), in which he made other false statements. In addition, on April 19, 1994, Azar filled out another job application in which he again failed to mention any of the four TGI Friday's - Dalt's employments. (Defendant's Exh. AV). The plaintiff explained this failure to reveal his prior TGI Friday's employments by noting that the positions he was applying for were in cost accounting and that, therefore, his "baker prep" jobs would not be relevant.

 Azar was hired at the TGI Friday's at Huntington, the restaurant at issue in this case, on July 24, 1989 and he was involuntarily terminated on September 11, 1989. He worked at the Huntington restaurant for approximately one month and 18 days, or 35 working days. He was initially hired as a baker prep cook. He also worked as a fry cook making fried food such as french fried potatoes and fried shrimp. In 1989, at the time of his employment, Frank Kasper ("Kasper") was the General Manager of the restaurant, Lance Wolff ("Wolff") was an Assistant Manager and Terrance O'Deens ("O'Deens") was the Kitchen Manager. General Manager Kasper was in overall charge of the restaurant and "does the hiring and firing" (Tr. at 70). Kitchen Manager O'Deens directly supervised the cooks in the kitchen. However, Azar testified that most of the time, Assistant Manager Wolff also supervised the kitchen personnel.

 Azar explained that the term Ayatollah "means the leader who threw away the Shah of Iran" (Tr. at 72). He testified that the term "Ayatollah" was stated by persons in the kitchen of TGI Friday's at Huntington to refer to him in a derogatory fashion. In particular, Azar testified that two days after he was hired, Wolff said to him, "I didn't know he is a fucking Iranian." After that, Wolff started calling him Ayatollah. Azar testified that when Wolff used the term Ayatollah, he did so with hate and anger "in his face. . . like I have a disease." Azar testified that only one other person called him Ayatollah, a cook shift leader named "John", who stopped using that name as soon as Azar told him not to do so.

 Azar further testified to this name calling:

 
Q How often did Mr. Wolff call you Ayatollah?
 
A Every shift I was working with him.
 
Q Did he call you any other names or terms?
 
A Yes, sir.
 
Q What were they?
 
A Ayatollah, fucking rocking roller. Ayatollah, assholer.
 
Q How often did Mr. Wolff give -- call you those names?
 
A Every time he was reading, and he started calling -- wasn't calling my name, Fred, he was saying Ayatollah, two french fries, Ayatollah, two fried mushrooms, like ...

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