In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that special measures were needed to combat a backlash of employment discrimination against those perceived to be Muslim or Arab. Unfortunately, more than ten years later, this type of discrimination continues. In response, the EEOC has remained vigilant and worked to both prevent and remedy national origin and religious discrimination involving the Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities.
In the initial months after 9/11, the EEOC saw a 250% increase in the number of religion-based discrimination charges involving Muslims. Our initial efforts included the creation of a specific code to track charges of discrimination directly related to 9/11. Between 9/11/2001 and 3/11/2012, 1,040 charges were filed that were related to the attacks by an individual who is—or is perceived to be—Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian.  We cannot let this stereotyped hatred against pervade our workplaces.
What do these cases look like? Again, from the EEOC:
The EEOC filed suit alleging that Swift Aviation subjected the Charging Party to unlawful harassment because of his national origin, Palestinian/ Turkish (Arab/Middle Eastern) and because of his religion (Islam) in violation of Title VII. The alleged harassment included statements from supervisors such as, “I don’t know why we don’t just kill all them towel heads,” “Can you tell me why you came to work today dressed like you gonna blow up the World Trade Center?” and derogatory jokes about Arabs as well as defacing Charging Party’s Quran. The EEOC also alleged that Swift Aviation failed to stop the harassment despite complaints by Charging Party. Ultimately, the EEOC alleged the harassment became intolerable that Charging Party was forced to resign his employment. Swift Aviation agreed to pay $50,000 to settle the case and entered into a two year consent decree requiring it to revise its anti-discrimination policies pertaining to national origin, religious harassment and retaliation, provide training to all employees on the revised policies and to provide reports to the EEOC about future harassment complaints.
Where can you go to begin to educate yourself and your employees about these issues? The EEOC (again) provides some answers:
- Employment Rights of Immigrants Under Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws
- Employment Discrimination Based on Religion, Ethnicity, or Country of Origin
- Questions And Answers About Employer Responsibilities Concerning The Employment Of Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, And Sikhs