Looking at recent news reports, one can see that there are increasingly heightened tensions across America regarding the role of Islam in America. Between debates over building mosques in New York City and Tennessee, and anti-Islamic rhetoric by far-Right commentators, there is clearly a sense of unease and fear throughout the nation.
It is not surprising then to read that the EEOC has reported a dramatic increase in religious discrimination complaints by Muslims– an over 54 percent increase since 2004. Some of the cases they have reported on are shocking in their content. For example, at a meatpacking plant in Colorado, bloody meat was thrown at Muslim Somali workers, and anti-Muslim graffiti was found in the break and bathrooms of the plant. As well, the plant refused to accommodate the worker’s requests for an earlier dinner break for Ramadan.
Dozens of other workers have complained about policies at work that do not allow breaks to pray throughout the day, or dress codes that do not allow an individual to wear religious garments like a hijab- like the individual working for Abercrombie and Fitch who was fired for refusing to remove her hijab while working.
What does this rise in complaints mean? In part, it means some of the paranoia, fear and hostility seen across the country in the news is becoming an issue in the workplace. The more people allow their prejudices to influences their actions towards others, the more discriminatory and illegal employment actions will happen at work. We call upon employers to treat all workers with respect and in accordance with the law