Bank settles $40M lawsuit over compulsory Hitler parody video


NEW YORK (JTA) — BNP Paribas bank has settled a $40 million lawsuit with a Jewish former employee who claims he was penalized for complaining about a mandatory viewing of a training film that featured Hitler and Nazi imagery.

The multinational bank’s settlement with Jean-Marc Orlando, 47, of Scarsdale, New York, was reported Tuesday by The New York Jewish Week.

The settlement, whose terms are undisclosed, came four months after U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Andrew Peck ruled that Orlando, who is Orthodox, had “presented sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to conclude that he was subjected to a hostile work environment because of the two showings of the Hitler video …”

The video in question was a subtitled training film adapted from the 2004 movie “Downfall.” The movie has inspired many parodies in which filmmakers insert subtitles into a scene in which Hitler goes on a tirade and yells at his subordinates. Over the years, the targets have included Dallas Cowboys fans, video games and the lack of street parking in Tel Aviv.

READ: The YouTube downfall of ‘Downfall’ 

BNP Paribas’ version depicted Hitler as the CEO of the bank’s competitor, Deutsche Bank.

Orlando, former managing director in the bank’s fixed-income division in New York, said in the suit that the video, which he was forced to watch at a meeting in Amsterdam in 2011, made him “increasingly nervous and nauseous and dizzy.”

Following his complaints about the video, the bank gave him an “unusually and suspiciously poor performance evaluation,” the suit alleged.

Orlando’s lawyer, Jonathan Sack, told The Jewish Week the ruling is precedent-setting because it means “any employee who claims he had to see a swastika at work — even one time — can establish a claim of having to work in a hostile environment.”

A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment.

In his decision, which was dated Oct. 22, Peck noted that Orlando’s grandparents “lived in Tunisia during the Holocaust and were directly affected by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.”

According to Peck’s ruling, the video “was not played in a vacuum. Orlando testified at his deposition that his colleagues made a number of anti-Semitic comments during his tenure at BNPP …”

Peck also cited an internal bank document noting “there is a clear difference between an individual choosing at their discretion to watch a film about Hitler or YouTube footage of this clip in their own time and being forced to watch it twice as part of an Offsite training program (where they cannot switch off/leave if it makes them feel uncomfortable).”

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