EEOC Repeats Post 9/11 Discrimination Warnings

December 5, 2002 ( - The federal anti-discrimination agency is echoing calls it made after 9/11 reminding employers not to discriminate against foreign workers.

As part of the latest education effort, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its workplace guidelines on handling foreign worker discrimination issues, unveiled  a new Web page , and released a new  Q&A fact sheet .

Although the materials are aimed at smaller employers, agency officials said should be reviewed by employers of all sizes to educate themselves about federal laws barring discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or country of origin.

In the new material, the agency illustrated what would be considered discriminatory workplace activities.

It cited, among other examples, a Christian Egyptian who is harassed by co-workers about his Arab ethnicity but whose employers do not intercede on his behalf, a Lebanese cabdriver dismissed because customers said they were afraid to ride with him and harsher disciplinary treatment given to Muslims than workers of other faiths.

Post 9/11 Pressure

In the weeks after last year’s terrorist attacks, some Arab-American groups were critical of the commission for what the critics said was a lukewarm response to widespread reports of workplace discrimination against Arab Americans. Agency officials countered by insisting they stood ready to enforce anti-bias laws.

The commission has since filed national-origin lawsuits against several employers, including an aerospace manufacturer in Tampa and an art museum in Worcester, Mass.(See EEOC Sues Mass. Museum for Anti-Muslim Discrimination ), that were alleged to have fired Arab-American workers soon after the attacks.

Three weeks ago the agency reached a $35,000 settlement with  a kidney-dialysis center in North Carolina where an employee said she had been subjected to a hostile work environment after last year’s terrorist attacks.

The worker, a licensed practical nurse, told the agency she converted to Islam shortly before the attacks and began wearing a religious scarf to work within a month after September 11, 2001. She said her employer said her appearance was frightening the center’s mostly elderly patients, and she quit. The commission said she had in effect been forced to quit.

The EEOC received 8,025 reports of national-origin discrimination in the year ended September. 30, up slightly from 7,792 the previous year. About 10% of all discrimination claims brought to the agency involve national-origin discrimination, a proportion that has remained relatively steady for the past decade.

Race, sex and age discrimination remain the three biggest sources of bias complaints brought to the agency.