An Arab banquet waiter at the legendary Waldorf-Astoria hotel says he was forced to wear different name tags at work to prevent guests from being frightened by being served by someone named Mohamed.
Mohamed Kotbi said the first time he was asked to do so was on Sept. 13, 2001 – two days after the attacks on the Twin Towers. Kotbi, who has worked for the hotel since December 1984, said he was given a name tag that said, “John”.
“I put it on. I was in shock,” the Muslim man said. When he later went to complain to hotel management, he said he was told, “We don’t want to scare our guests.”
He filed discrimination complaints with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2005 and 2009, and was eventually given a name tag with his last name, Kotbi.
This past November, however, he was given a name tag that said, “Edgar”. Kotbi said he complained and was told by a manager, “It’s better to be Edgar than Mohamed today.”
Now he is suing the Waldorf for religious and racial discrimination, charging that hotel management has created a “hostile work environment” with the nametag shenanigans and its failure to stop a group of co-workers from tormenting him.
The suit says co-workers have repeatedly called him “terrorist”, “al Qaeda boy”, and other names. “It’s like I’m guilty, like I did the attacks on September 11,” the Moroccan-born man said.