The U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission recently sought to address potential backlash against Muslims in the workplace – after the terror attacks in Paris and California.
In fact, Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Yang released this statement in December:
“In the wake of tragic events at home and abroad, EEOC urges employers and employees to be particularly mindful of instances of harassment, intimidation, or discrimination in the workplace against vulnerable communities.”
To assist employers in these employment matters, the EEOC released Q&A guidance they hope will help employers with questions they may have. The guidance for employers specifically addresses hiring, harassment, religious accommodations and background checks.
Here is a case study the EEOC offers on the topic of harassment:
“John is Muslim. In the last few months, a co-worker regularly seeks him out for long discussions about Islam, ISIS, and terrorism. In a routine check-in with his supervisor, John tells the supervisor about these discussions and says that he is increasingly uncomfortable with them. John expresses concern that the conversations may escalate or spark religious hostility. What should the supervisor do?”
In this instance, the EEOC encourages employers to help “John” discuss his discomfort with his co-worker and/or have someone in management talk to the co-worker. If harassing behavior persists, the EEOC suggests disciplinary action.
With respect to religious accommodations as it pertains to requests for time for prayer during the workday, the EEOC makes it clear that each case should be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine if the request would pose an undue burden on the business. It notes that employers can ask employees to make up for the missed work time in these instances if the time taken exceeds that provided for a normal break or eating period.
The guidance also makes it clear that employers may not conduct additional background screening beyond what is normally performed for other job applicants.
Finally the EEOC suggests that all employers re-issue workplace policies on harassment and discrimination.
If you have questions about EEOC regulations and their enforcement, call us. The attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale each have over 20 years of experience in all aspects of employment law and the rights of employers. Please contact us if we can help you.
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