In part in response to the terror attack in San Bernardino and other world events in late 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (or, EEOC), issued new guidance to employers on workplace discrimination against Muslims, those of Middle Eastern descent or anyone assumed to be of either Middle Eastern descent or the Muslim faith. This EEOC guidance offered employers information on handling situations like where a manager is worried about customers’ reactions to an employees’ wearing of a hijab, verbal harassment against employees who are Muslim and whether or not employers must honor a Muslim employee’s request to use a section of the workplace for daily prayers.
Discrimination claims by Muslim and Middle Eastern workers, and many individuals who have been improperly assumed to be Middle Eastern or Muslim by their fellow employees or managers have been on the rise for more than a decade, and this discrimination is definitely something being watched by the EEOC. You can read the EEOC’s guidance here, and our law office is available to answer any questions you may have.
Pursuant to the EEOC’s official guidance, employers may not require Muslims to remove their hijabs or other religious attire, nor refuse to hire an individual because they wear a hijab. This is unlawful discrimination. It would also be unlawful discrimination to hire a Muslim who wears a hijab, but refuse to offer them a position in your company that interacts with the public. You cannot “hide” Muslim workers from the general public because of their religious attire.
Managers and supervisors who learn of harassment targeted at Muslims because of their religious faith or harassment targeted at employers believed to be of Middle Eastern descent should be very firm that that sort of harassment will not be tolerated in their workplace. Workplace harassment is often preventable with the right training and management support, however, not all employers enforce these rules. Whether you are an employer concerned about potential harassment at your workplace, or a Muslim or Middle Eastern employee who has been the subject of racial or religious harassment, the Law Office of Robert David Baker is your local employment law solution.
One important piece of guidance for all employers to take note of is that employers cannot require applications who are Middle Eastern, Muslim or assumed to be either to undergo background checks more rigorous than other nationalities would be subject to, unless required by law. Employers who conduct security screenings on prospective or current employees should be careful not to subject any Muslim employees to additional screenings that other employees of different faiths are not subjected to.