Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment based on certain protected characteristics, such as race, religion, and national origin. On the broadest level, this means that an employer cannot refuse to hire an applicant based solely on his or her national origin. The EEOC has seen a steady rise in national-origin claims since September 11. A recent decision from the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is an unusual example of a Title VII claim.
Anesh Gupta, an Asian male, was a college intern working at the Epcot Center in Disney World. As part of his internship, Gupta became a server during the breakfast shift at the Norwegian restaurant. When he was hired, breakfast was considered an “American” meal. Later, the schedule was changed and the Norwegian breakfast was served all day. Gupta was terminated for being “culturally unauthentic.”
Some employees, including servers at the Norway Pavilion were required to be “cultural representatives,” interacting with guests and explaining the country’s history, culture, and traditions. The employees’ were required to speak the language and possess an adequate command of English in order to communicate with visitors to the theme park.
The court found that Gupta was not qualified to be a server at the Norwegian restaurant under the Disney World guidelines. Servers were required to be culturally authentic to Norway and Gupta admitted that he had visited Norway only once for one or two days and that he did not have first-hand knowledge of Norwegian culture. Further, it was not Gupta’s Asian ancestry that disqualified him from working at the restaurant. Disney presented evidence of other Asian individuals who had been qualified to serve as cultural representatives in the Norway Pavilion.