Incidents of discrimination against Muslims in the workplace across the U.S. are on the rise. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that in 2009, there were 1,490 claims made by Muslims that alleged discrimination by employers. Of these 1,490 claims, 803 resulted in charges from the EEOC. This is also a growing problem in California, as 58 of the 803 claims occurred within the state, placing it behind only Georgia and Minnesota in the amount of claims filed. Several recent high profile cases show similar patterns of discriminatory activity.
One of the major cases brought by the EEOC was against JBS Swift & Co., a Colorado meat-packaging company. Employees alleged that the company did not provide them with opportunities to pray. They also allege that the company would not move break times to allow employees to make their evening prayer during the month of Ramadan. The employees also brought a hostile work environment claim, as derogatory graffiti appeared in the facility's restrooms.
In August, Disney was also the subject of a discrimination complaint. A hostess at one of Disney's restaurants in Anaheim was asked to remove her hijab. (A hijab is a head scarf worn by Muslim women.) Disney permitted her to wear a specially designed head scarf, but it was not provided to the hostess in time for Ramadan. When she showed up to work wearing her hijab, she was given the option of removing the hijab or working in an area not visible to customers. The dispute remains under EEOC investigation.
Employers are required by federal law to provide their Muslim employees the right to observe their religious beliefs, unless it would cause hardship on the employer. Hijabs are permitted under the law, and employees also must receive time for prayer. Employers must also protect employees from slurs and hostile treatment by fellow coworkers or supervisors.
These high-profile cases are allowing more Muslims to realize discriminatory treatment in their workplace. If you feel you have been subjected to behavior that does not account for your religious beliefs, or were terminated after bringing these claims to the attention of your supervisors, speak with an experienced attorney in your area to learn the options that may be available to you.