Introduction
Antisemitism at work
Challenging and preventing antisemitism


Introduction

It is no secret that antisemitism is on the rise throughout the United States. The Anti-Defamation League's (ADL's) 2021 Survey on Jewish Americans' Experience with Antisemitism found that in the past five years, 63% of Jewish people either experienced or witnessed an antisemitic event. Further, the ADL reports that antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the United States in 2021, with a total of 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported – an average of more than seven incidents per day and a 34% increase year over year. The problem has grabbed recent media attention, with celebrities making headlines for their antisemitic rants. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also taken notice of the rise of violence, harassment and acts of bias towards Jewish individuals, and, in 2021, unanimously approved a resolution condemning antisemitism in all forms.

Antisemitism at work

Antisemitism has also infiltrated the workplace. This November, ResumeBuilder.com conducted a survey of 1,131 US hiring managers and recruiters about their feelings towards Jewish employees. The results were shocking. Although results vary by many demographic variables, some key takeaways include:

  • 26% of hiring managers say they are less likely to move forward with Jewish applicants;
  • 23% say they want fewer Jewish employees in their industry;
  • 12% say leadership told them to not hire Jewish people;
  • 17% say antisemitism is very common in their workplace (while 12 % say antisemitism is common); and
  • 21% say they have caught themselves viewing a Jewish applicant with negative bias.

This survey shows that stereotypes clearly influence hiring decisions. For example, about 26% of those who responded relied on an applicant's appearance to determine if he or she was Jewish, and over 32% determined Jewishness by the applicant's last name. Others stated they knew the applicant was Jewish because he or she appeared "very frugal", based on his or her "voice", and because of the applicant's "mannerisms". In the survey, hiring managers and recruiters cited "too much wealth", "too much power and control", the Jewish claim as the "chosen people", and that Jewish individuals are "greedy" as the top reasons they are less likely to move forward with Jewish applicants and why they believe there should be fewer Jewish people in their industries.(1)

While Title VII and state laws clearly prohibit discrimination and harassment based on religion (and ethnicity and race), and employers are required to accommodate sincerely held religious beliefs, antisemitism is rarely a focus of employer policies, procedures and trainings. Surveys such as this clearly show that more needs to be done by employers to raise awareness about antisemitism and its impact on Jewish employees and the workplace as a whole.

Challenging and preventing antisemitism

There are a variety of ways in which employers can challenge and prevent antisemitism, as well as ensuring their workplaces are safe spaces for Jewish employees. Companies should:

  • speak out, when appropriate, to condemn antisemitism and support Jewish employees. Companies should also speak out against hate crimes in the community and ensure leadership reassures Jewish employees of their safety;

  • understand the impact that time away from work to celebrate the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays has on Jewish employees. Jewish employees should not be penalised for time away from the workplace to practice their religion and culture, and companies should ensure that important meetings and events are not scheduled on the Sabbath or the Jewish holidays. Companies should modify paid time off policies to allow Jewish employees to easily take time off for religious observance;

  • review their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in light of Jewish employees;

  • review policy and procedures, including dress codes, to ensure they do not marginalise Jewish employees;

  • review company Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy to specifically prohibit antisemitism in the workplace, not just religious discrimination generally;

  • prohibit all antisemitic conduct, including epithets and describing Jewish people using stereotypes, as well as prohibition of symbols, such as swastikas, that represent antisemitic views;

  • provide regular EEO training to specifically include the prohibition of discrimination against and harassment of Jewish people. Training should include how Jewish stereotypes are harmful and should specifically state that antisemitism will not be tolerated;

  • train supervisors, recruiters, and human resources department on how to recognise and address antisemitism in the workplace, including not so obvious microaggressions;

  • consider providing Kosher meals for meetings and events where observant Jewish people will be in attendance;

  • encourage Jewish employees to come forward with complaints about antisemitism experienced in the workplace and assure them that they will not suffer retaliation as a result and that, where appropriate, prompt remedial action will take place; and

  • encourage employees ask about religious observances, traditions and customs to provide more information and understanding.

For further information on this topic please contact Johanna G. Zelman or Rachel Z. Ullrich at FordHarrison by telephone (860-740-1361 or 214-256-4712) or email [email protected] or [email protected]. The FordHarrison website can be accessed at www.fordharrison.com.

Endnotes

(1) Full results of this survey can be found here.