On the heels of ISIL-related terrorist acts in Paris, San Bernardino and elsewhere at the end of 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued a statement and guidance regarding discrimination against those who are, or appear to be, Muslim or Middle Eastern.
In part, the EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang stated: “America was founded on the principle of religious freedom. As a nation, we must continue to seek the fair treatment of all, even as we grapple with the concerns raised by recent terrorist attacks. When people come to work and are unfairly harassed or otherwise targeted based on their religion or national origin, it undermines our shared and longstanding values of tolerance and equality for all.”
In addition to the Chair’s statement, the EEOC also issued two Q&A documents regarding unlawful discriminatory treatment of those who are Muslim or Middle Eastern. One advises employers regarding their responsibilities concerning the hiring, harassment, religious accommodation, and background checks of applicants and employees. The other advises applicants and employees regarding the same topics.
Takeaway: While strong emotional reactions are common in response to recent ISIL and other terrorist attacks, employers must remain non-discriminatory regarding their treatment of applicants and employees who are, or are perceived as, Muslim or Middle Eastern. These recent guidelines help remind employers of the need to increase their efforts to prevent discrimination.