Do I have recourse for being terminated for describing my last name?

UPDATED: Jun 18, 2019

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Do I have recourse for being terminated for describing my last name?

I work in a call center enviroment working only with other associates in my business. I was terminated from my job because of an

Asked on June 18, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you could be fired for this. All states are at-will states if you don't have a written employment contract protecting or guarantying your job; in an at-will state, an employee may be terminated at any time for any reason not specifically barred by law. And even when there is some specific legal protection, as there is for national origin (so you *might* be able to claim that your German name is protected as part of your national origin, though if you yourself or your parents are not Germany, the claim gets attenuated), the problem is that the employer must only make a reasonable accommodation for those factors and can terminate even otherwise protected employees for inappropriate behavior. And referring to yourself or your name as "male genitalia man" is unfortunately inappropriate: it would not only be offensive to many people, but could actually possibly be considered sexual harassment (e.g. making a male genitalia reference to female employees would almost always be considered sexual harassment--there is no time or circumstance, other than possibly in a urologist's office, when you can make a statement involving male genitalia to female colleagues). A company is not required to accept the risk of a sexual harassment claim and concommitment liability that your comments expose them to...especially since there are easy and fairly obvious non-genitalia-related ways to get the spelling of your name across, such as:
"That's Dickman: D-I-C-K-M-A-N.
"It's Dickman, not Rickman, as in Dick Tracey or Dick Nixon."
"That's almost right, but the first letter is 'D'."
That is, you could have conveyed the spelling without referring to genitalia. Since you used a frequently offensive, potentially sexually harassing way to describe your name instead of the several non-offensive options, your termination was legal.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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