Title VII makes it unlawful to discriminate against an individual on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Title VII also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations for religious practices that are "sincerely held," as long as the accommodation would not create an undue hardship on the employer's business. Discrimination against Muslims and Middle Eastern individuals is one specific type of discrimination against religion and national origin. Oftentimes, this type of discrimination is based only on a perceived notion that an employee falls into one or both of these categories.
Recent terror attacks cause surge in hate crimes
The recent terrorist attacks in both Paris and San Bernardino, California have resulted in a surge in threats against Muslims in the United States. According to some reports, the number of suspected hate crimes against Muslims has tripled since those terror events, with approximately 38 attacks considered to be anti-Islamic.
Workplace harassment against Muslims
As a consequence of these Islamic-related attacks, it would not be surprising that workplace conversations regarding these events increases. Due to heightened apprehension, employees may be more likely to make open remarks toward Muslims and Middle Eastern employees, or those perceived to fit into those categories. This is likely to lead to harassment. For example, Muslim employees may be asked by co-workers to discuss Islam, terrorism and other related issues. Clearly, these situations are likely to make those employees uncomfortable, possibly to the point of feeling harassed.
What can you do to stop the harassment?
Just like the racial slurs that plague African-Americans, religious or ethnic epithets in the workplace can be considered unlawful harassment. The first step, if you feel you are being subjected to workplace harassment, is to consult your employer's anti-harassment policies and procedures. Follow those policies by reporting the conduct or filing a complaint – whatever is required. Your employer has a legal responsibility to take corrective action, even if the harassment is based on a misperception regarding your religion or national origin.
What if your employer does not resolve the problem?
In some cases, management may not be willing to take appropriate action, possibly because of the same bias. Supervisors may not see your situation as actionable harassment. Though not always the case, some employers may even condone or engage in the same behavior. In that case, you may need to take different action. You have basically two options. You can contact an employment discrimination attorney to assist you in filing an EEOC charge, or you can contact the EEOC directly. If you decide to file a charge with the EEOC, know that there are strict deadlines for filing charges. A charge of employment discrimination must be filed with EEOC within 180 days of the date of the challenged conduct, in most cases.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.