Workplace Culture

We Stand With France; We Stand Against Discrimination

By Jon Hyman

Nov. 16, 2015

What happened Friday evening in France is unfathomable. Except, really, it isn’t. We experienced it 15 years ago in New York City. And, in the aftermath of 9/11, discrimination against Muslims and Arabs increased by 250 percent.

From the EEOC:

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.&nbsp 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.

We cannot let this type of discrimination again pervade our workplaces, no matter how angry we are over the murderous crimes of a few acting in the name of Islam.

Where can you go to begin to educate yourself and your employees about these issues? The EEOC (again) provides some answers:

No doubt, we live in scary times. Some will tell you (and I don’t necessarily disagree) that we are amid the third world war (even if it looks very different than any war we’ve fought before). One of this war’s battlelines will be drawn at the ballot box over the issues of immigration and immigrant rights. We must resist the urge to fight this war in our workplaces by harassing and otherwise discriminating against those who have the right to work, and enjoy that right free from discrimination and harassment.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

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