This coming Sunday will be the 10th Anniversary of the attack on the United States by the terrorists of Al-Qaeda. This anniversary will be widely publicized in the news and numerous TV specials. This activity will have the effect of causing emotions to rise to the surface. This may result in discriminatory acts against employees on the basis of their religous beliefs, or their perceived religous beliefs. Those of us in human resources need to be aware of the potential for these situations. The standard in discrimination cases is that you know “or should have known” that discrimination could occur.
In 2000 the number of cases filed with the EEOC claiming religous discrimination was 1,939. In 2010 these cases had almost doubled to 3,790. I suspect that number will increase in 2011 as a result of this anniversary. Of course not all these cases of religious discrimination where directed toward Muslims, but my guess is a fair amount of the increase was. Combine this with the rise in discrimination suits on the basis of national origin (7,792 to 11,304 over the same time period) shows that this has been an active area of discrimination.
It might be a good time to reinforce your anti-harassment policy, making it clear to all employees that harassment and discrimination is not acceptable, regardless of the circumstances. Emphasize your procedure for reporting harassment and immediately investigate any report received. If you let emotions run away you run the risk of having to deal with lawsuits you would just as soon not have to deal with.
So be alert and be prepared.
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