Workplace Bias on Rise Since Sept. 11

Discrimination claims continue to rise, and the federal government is worried.

by / May 13, 2002
The number of workplace discrimination claims filed with the federal government by Arab, Middle Eastern, South Asian and other groups since Sept. 11 has soared to unprecedented levels, reports USA Today.

Nearly 415 claims had been filed as of April 11 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with more than 60 received in March. Claims have continued to rise, reversing an earlier slowdown, the newspaper noted.

As well, about 200 workplace bias complaints have been fielded since Sept. 11 by the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

The increase has alarmed federal officials enough to start a first-ever campaign to stem the rise. As part of a national grass-roots outreach effort, the EEOC recently heard testimony and recommendations from a variety of Arab, Muslim, Sikh, Middle Eastern, and South Asian groups on combating backlash discrimination against members of those communities in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"Like most of your forefathers, I came to this country believing it to be the beacon for democracy, equality, and justice for all," said Ziad Asali of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

Asali presented a representative sample of the 115 cases of employment discrimination that the ADC has forwarded to the EEOC since 9/11, including discriminatory terminations, hostile work environments, ethnic slurs, and general harassment. Asali also pointed out the irony that many Americans mistrust Arab-Americans at the same time terrorists have reportedly been instructed not to trust them as collaborators because they have been assimilated as Americans, or, as Asali put it, "gone native."

National Association of Muslim Lawyers spokesman Arshad Majid also brought several examples of discrimination to the Commissioners' attention. "This unjust persecution has caused many faultless innocents in America to lose their livelihoods, their careers, their homes and in some cases, their lives," said Majid. "Their American dream has turned into a nightmare, where as a result of the criminal acts of persons they have never heard of nor had any connection to, they have nevertheless been forced from their jobs, labeled as criminals, and shunned from their professional communities for no perceptible reason other than the way they look, dress, speak, or worship."

The EEOC has stressed the importance of governmental civil rights agencies going out to the communities they protect to help overcome widespread reluctance of many members of affected communities to come forward with complaints of employment discrimination.

Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's Web site at www.eeoc.gov
Blake Harris Editor
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