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What You Should Know about the EEOC and Religious and National Origin Discrimination Involving the Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian Communities

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that special measures were needed to combat a backlash of employment discrimination against those perceived to be Muslim or Arab.  Unfortunately, more than ten years later, this type of discrimination continues.  In response, the EEOC has remained vigilant and worked to both prevent and remedy national origin and religious discrimination involving the Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities.

In the initial months after 9/11, the EEOC saw a 250% increase in the number of religion-based discrimination charges involving Muslims. Our initial efforts included the creation of a specific code to track charges of discrimination directly related to 9/11.  Between 9/11/2001 and 3/11/2012, 1,040 charges were filed that were related to the attacks by an individual who is - or is perceived to be - Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern or South Asian.  

While the number of charges directly related to 9/11 has dwindled, the Commission continues to see an increase in charges involving religious discrimination against Muslims and alleging national origin discrimination against Muslims or those with a Middle Eastern background.  

The Commission has filed nearly 90 lawsuits alleging religious and national origin discrimination involving the Muslim, Sikh, Arab, Middle Eastern and South Asian communities, many of which involved harassment.  The alleged harassment included taunts such as "Saddam Hussein," "camel eater," and "terrorist."  A few recent cases include:

In addition, the EEOC has intensified its outreach, created fact sheets on immigrant employee rights (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/immigrants-facts.cfm) and discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or country of origin (http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/fs-relig_ethnic.cfm).  The EEOC has also provided information to employers concerning their responsibilities in employing Muslim, Arab, South Asian and Sikh workers (http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/backlash-employer.cfm).

We will continue our efforts to eradicate discrimination in the workplace by enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws and educating employers and employees about their rights and responsibilities.