Meeting of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
"Employment Discrimination in the Aftermath of September 11"
December 11, 2001
On behalf of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), I would like to thank the Commission for inviting me to discuss the highly disturbing pattern of employment discrimination in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. My name is Ziad Asali, MD, and I am president of the nation's largest membership organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Arab Americans. ADC was established in 1980 by former United States Senator James Abourezk to combat stereotyping, discrimination, and harassment of Americans of Arab descent. ADC operates offices in Washington DC, Detroit, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York City and Cleveland as well as approximately 80 grassroots chapters nationwide.
Like most of your forefathers, I came to this country believing it to be the beacon for democracy, equality, and justice for all. I am a proud American who, during my career as a physician that spanned a quarter of a century, has had the opportunity to be both an employee and an employer. I have worked within the system and am familiar with the self-correcting mechanisms that it provides to redress excesses and address grievances. It is a system we all have reasons to be proud of.
It has now been two months since I last had the pleasure of meeting with EEOC Chair Cari Dominguez concerning this issue. ADC has enjoyed a very close working relationship with the EEOC and has worked with the former Chair on these issues. To date, ADC has forwarded to the Commission approximately 115 incidents of employment discrimination nationwide since September 11. ADC has also provided the EEOC with 150 copies of ADC's "Unmasking Job Discrimination" booklet in Arabic and English for use in various Commission field offices, and worked with EEOC officials in coordinating Vice Chair Paul Igasaki's very constructive meetings with the Arab-American community in Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Chicago among other places.
Today, I am here to provide you with a representative sample of some of those 115 cases of employment discrimination that ADC has forwarded to the Commission since September 11 of this year. These cases include examples of job termination, complaint abuse, discriminatory policy, hostile work environment and ethnic slurs, national origin discrimination, and termination after questioning by the FBI. They come from various geographical locations and involve both private and public employers. The states with the highest numbers of reported incidents are California, Texas, Illinois, New York/New Jersey, and Michigan. The following are nine examples:
A lady was employed by an employer in California from February 27 to September 13 of this year when she was terminated with no reason given. She had received nothing but excellent customer service ratings in the six and a half months that she worked for the employer. She was terminated after her supervisor told her not to say anything to anyone about her husband being Palestinian, even though he is a U.S. citizen. She then received an e-mail from her supervisor asking that no one in the office reveal their religion or their ethnicity.
An account manager working for a security firm in Washington state was informed by a client company about a new Policy on Race and Religion at the company which required all contractors, including the security firm, to exclude all non-US citizens, all Americans of Arab descent, and all persons who may be Muslims from working at the company's facility.
A gentleman in Maryland faced repeated ethnic intimidation and physical threats with use of vulgar language. The gentleman works at a construction site with contractors from other states. When he reported the threats and harassment to his supervisor, the supervisor responded by asking, "Don't you think they have a right to be angry?" and then asked him why he was not wearing patriotic clothing or pins.
A gentleman working for a maintenance company faced questioning by corporate security after using a phone to call his home. The company is a contractor at an airport. The gentleman was working at another company's facility in the airport between September 10 and September 12. As a maintenance worker he has access to all buildings within the facility and was doing routine maintenance work. On September 12 he was questioned by two security officers from corporate security about his use of a phone at a location in which he worked. He explained that it is accepted practice to allow the workers to use phones in the facility for in-state calls and he indeed did use the phone twice to call his home. Corporate security questioned him about his national origin, where he lived and what he did in his native country, how long he lived in the US, who his friends are in the US, what his immigration status was, and who he knew in his native country. He alleged that corporate security first did not allow him to use the phone to call his wife and mother who were waiting for his call. When he informed them that he instructed his wife to call the police if he did not call her within a specific period of time, the two officers permitted him to use the phone but instructed him to speak only in English. When he objected, saying that his mother does not speak English, they said that they would not provide him with a phone unless he spoke only in English, which he finally agreed to do. Later the same day, his manager informed him that the other company requested that he no longer work in their facilities at the Newark Airport and that he be transferred to another facility. The manager indicated that he would transfer him to another location.
A lady who was applying for the same job as an Arab American was told by the recruiter who was assisting her in her job search,"everyone is skittish about hiring them." According to the lady, the recruiter then said she was talking to another recruiter who said she does not even present Middle Eastern people to employers anymore because no one will hire them.
A college instructor reported that a Saudi Arabian student was insulted and threatened by an American student at her college cafeteria in view of a dozen people. The Saudi student was terrorized, and withdrew to his dormitory room where he remained most of the time for the more than three weeks he required to get transportation back to Saudi Arabia. The instructor continually requested that the program director take forceful action to support the student. He also asked him to press the college administration to deal with the issue. According to the instructor, the college took no action on this issue. After two weeks with no action, the instructor wrote a letter to the chairperson of the board of directors of the college. The chairperson returned the letter to the college authorities who called the instructor into a meeting where they focused on the unfairness of his criticism and the offense they took at the charges. The instructor was then terminated from his thirteen year-old position.
An Egyptian-born U.S. citizen, was terminated from his job after serving in that position for 14 years. The gentleman was the victim of ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks based on his national origin. He was repeatedly referred to as a "sand nigger." Although he complained about the derogatory remarks, nothing was done to rectify the situation. After September eleventh, the gentleman faced increased discrimination at his office. Upon hearing news that a suspect in connection with the September eleventh terrorist attacks had been detained, the gentlemans' supervisor allegedly joked, "Did he have a rag on his head?" A colleague of the gentleman overheard the slur and informed him of the comment. A week after reporting this incident, both men were fired, receiving letters which read, "... you have challenged my integrity, impeding my authority to operate this office. Your action is harassment and a breach of trust in our relationship."
Three members of the same family were terminated by a state agency after being visited by special agents of the FBI at their place of work during the last week of September. They were all legally employed as residents of the US.
The EEOC has been one of the most responsive federal agencies in addressing this crisis. I wish to thank you for providing me with this opportunity and for your continued efforts and dedication in assisting ADC to deal with employment discrimination incidents nationwide.
ADC is committed to continuing its close working relationship with the EEOC and hopes to be included in future outreach efforts.
This page was last modified on December 17, 2001.
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