Just before Christmas, the EEOC issued new guidance with the catchy title: “Questions and Answers for Employers: Responsibilities Concerning the Employment of Individuals Who Are, or Are Perceived to Be, Muslim or Middle Eastern.” The EEOC says that it issued the guidance in response to the “attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, in late 2015 and other recent world events….”
The guidance, which you can access here, discusses how the law deals with situations where a manager worries about customers’ reactions to an employee wearing a hijab (she gets to wear it), where employees refer to an Arab American co-worker as a terrorist (obviously, not allowed), and where Muslim workers ask their employer to use a conference room for daily prayers (this requires an undue hardship analysis). It also explains that companies cannot make applicants with backgrounds in the Middle East undergo additional security clearances, unless otherwise required by law.
While the guidance may be new, the principles are not. But, as we’ve written before, discrimination and harassment claims brought by Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian workers have been on the rise for years. The problem extends also to people perceived as being Muslim or Arab, such as typified by a recent vicious attack on a 68-year-old Sikh man in Fresno. (Do people really discriminate so indiscriminately?) This is as good a time as any to make sure that your workers know that discrimination against or harassment of those employees is just as unacceptable as any other type of discrimination or harassment.