“Politics Aside- Discrimination Against Muslims In The Workplace Poses Serious Legal Issues For Employers.”

The issue of the treatment of individuals of the Muslim faith has come front and center in this political campaign.  Particularly among those on the political right, the drumbeat has been voiced loud and clear that concerns about national safety dictate the need to segregate members of the Muslim faith, and according to some politicians, require that we bar such individuals from entering this country.  Without regard to the moral and ethical issues that such pronouncements or actions may invoke, it is extremely important that employers realize that adverse or differential treatment of those of the Muslim faith is blatantly violative of Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination based on religion, national origin and/or race.

Very recently the EEOC published guidance for employers entitled “Questions and Answers for Employers: Responsibilities Concerning the Employment of Individuals Who Are or Are, or Are Perceived to be Muslim or Middle Eastern”.  This guidance may be easily accessed on the EEOC’s website.  In this guidance the EEOC, in a helpful fashion, details various factual scenarios that explain how and why employers must pay close attention to their legal obligations under Title VII in refraining from overt or covert discrimination against members of the Muslim faith.  Moreover, the EEOC discusses, through clear examples, situations in which employers are required to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of its Muslim employees.

In today’s litigious workplace, it would behoove responsible employers to avoid falling prey to political rhetoric regarding individuals of the Muslim faith and to review, in detail, the recent pronouncement of the EEOC regarding how to deal with issues that arise from the hiring and employment of Muslim individuals.  An employer who ignores its legal obligations vis-à-vis Muslim individuals does so at its legal peril.