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EEOC Warns Against Antisemitism, Islamophobia

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On January 8th, the U.S. Equal Employment Commission's (EEOC) newest General Counsel, Karla Gilbride, told reporters that addressing discrimination in American workplaces relating to the Israel-Hamas skirmish is a top priority for 2024.

Logo for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Logo for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

On October 7, 2023, the terrorist organization Hamas staged the deadliest terrorist attack against Israel since the state's establishment in 1948, killing approximately 1,200 people. Since then, antisemitism and Islamophobia have surged, and the EEOC's top watchdog has taken note.

"We are reviewing that data to get a better handle on whether we at EEOC are recognizing an uptick in discrimination on the basis of religion or national origin affecting Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities or people who might be perceived as belonging to those communities even if they did not actually belong to those communities," Ms. Gilbride told reporters on Monday.

Law360's Anne Cullen reported that Ms. Gilbride added, "Based on what folks in the community are telling us, this is an issue that is having effects in the workplace as well as throughout all facets of society, and we want to be sensitive to it and do what we can to help people who may be experiencing discrimination based on their religion, based on where they or their ancestors are from."

Ms. Gilbride, who herself has a history of protecting vulnerable individuals, is doubling down on the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), which it released mere weeks before the Hamas attack. In the SEP, the EEOC highlighted that it will target "discrimination, bias, and hate directed against religious minorities (including antisemitism and Islamophobia)."

In 2021, the EEOC updated its guidance on religious discrimination. In it, the EEOC recommended several best practices for employers to reduce the risk of religious discrimination. Among them:

  • Train inexperienced managers and encourage them to consult with more experienced managers or human resources personnel when addressing difficult issues.
  • Allow religious expression among employees at least to the same extent that they allow other types of personal expression that are not harassing or disruptive to the operation of the business.
  • Have a well-publicized and consistently applied anti-harassment policy.
  • Employees who do not wish personally to confront a harasser should report the conduct to their supervisor or other appropriate company official per the company's anti-harassment policy.
  • Immediately intervene when becoming aware of objectively abusive or insulting conduct, even absent a complaint.
  • Consider engaging with and educating customers regarding any religious misperceptions they may have and the equal employment opportunity laws.
  • For non-employee harassment, initiate a meeting with the contractor, vendor, or client regarding the harassment and require that it cease, that appropriate disciplinary action be taken if it continues, and/or that a different individual be assigned.

Posted In: Discrimination, Illegal; Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC); Religious Accommodation

Want to know more? Read the full article by at The Employer Handbook

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