JANUARY 06, 2016
In the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist attacks the Obama administration has issued a new warning regarding workplace discrimination “against individuals who are, or perceived to be, Muslim or Middle Eastern.”
American businesses are to accommodate the religious needs of Muslims and assure that they aren’t being harassed or intimidated, states the order which was issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the bloated federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace discrimination laws. Those who don’t oblige will be prosecuted by the administration for violating federal law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Right Act which prohibits discrimination on the bases of religion.
“The attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, in late 2015 and other recent world events have heightened concerns about workplace protections for all employees, including individuals who are, or are perceived to be, Muslim or Middle Eastern,” the EEOC asserts in its recently issued document. “Discrimination in the workplace based on religion, national origin, or race is strictly prohibited by federal and state laws. Reactions in the workplace to world events demand increased efforts by employers to prevent discrimination.” EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang refers to Muslims as “vulnerable communities” that need protection “even as we grapple with the concerns raised by the recent terrorist attacks.”
In the last few years the administration has sued a number of U.S. businesses for violating Muslim civil rights under Title VII, including companies in Nebraska, California and Colorado for not accommodating prayer breaks and forbidding Islamically-mandated headscarves (hijabs) on the job. Just a few months ago the EEOC helped two Muslim truck drivers working for an American company in the U.S. get hefty settlements after being fired for refusing to transport alcohol because it violates their religious beliefs. American taxpayers pick up the tab for all this litigation, which is conducted in federal courts throughout the nation.
Though the effort to protect Muslim rights in the American workforce was launched the day Obama became commander-in-chief, the administration drove home the point after the San Bernardino massacre by two Islamic terrorists. The new warning urges employers and employees to be particularly mindful of instances of harassment, intimidation or discrimination against Muslims and reminds businesses that accommodations for Muslim workers don’t just include time off for religious holidays but also “exceptions to dress and grooming codes.” Even if a situation does not amount to illegal harassment under federal law, the mandate asks employers to intervene in order to protect Muslim rights.
The document includes two attachments, in question-and-answer format, with hypothetical instances of discrimination. The first is geared towards employers and features two fictitious characters, Aliyyah and Susan, that encountered prejudice for their “religious attire.” An assistant manager at the store where Aliyyah applied to be a cashier believed her religious attire would make customers uncomfortable and Susan’s hijab violated an office dress code. Both instances constitute civil rights violations, according to the EEOC. The employer section also includes hypotheticals involving an Arab American named Muhammad and a Muslim named John who are harassed by colleagues about their religion.
The portion aimed at employees makes similar points with an added flare of drama. In that version the woman wearing the hijab was offered a bakery job over the phone but the manager appeared “startled” by her appearance and hired someone else. “In your situation, it appears that you were sent home because the employer had a negative reaction to your hijab, which you wear for religious reasons,” the new EEOC document asserts. A genderless Muslim character also complains about a coworker seeking “long discussions about Islam, ISIS and terrorism.” It’s possible the employer may not be helpful or might not see it as a problem at all, the EEOC concludes, encouraging Muslims that find themselves in these situations to file discrimination charges with the agency “at any time.”
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