Sales force told to use ‘Swedish’ names

Employees with foreign backgrounds working for a telemarketing company in Jönköping in central Sweden claim management encouraged them to change their names in order to increase sales.

“The first thing I heard was that I should change my name because otherwise I wouldn’t sell anything,” said one Business by Phone employee to TV4 news.

He added that he felt “peer pressure” to comply with the practice.

Out of the company’s roughly 20 employees, 14 claim they were forced to use made-up, “Swedish” sounding names in order to hide their ethnic background from customers.

According to Sweden’s Equality Ombudsman (DO), it is unacceptable to justify the practice by arguing that customers don’t want to buy things from salespeople with foreign backgrounds.

“If it’s the case that this is something being directed toward people with a certain ethnic background, it could certainly be a case of ethnic discrimination,” Torbjörn Andersson, a lawyer with the Equality Ombudsman (DO), told TV4

In an email to the television station, Business by Phone’s management denied that it had ever ordered employees to change their name.