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Muslim workers face increasing employment discrimination

A recent New York Times article examined employment discrimination against Muslims in the United States in the wake of the 9/11 attacks and the controversy surrounding the proposed construction of a mosque near Ground Zero.

More than 800 Muslims reportedly filed discrimination claims through Sept. 30 of last year. That total was up 20 percent from the year before and up 60 percent from 2005. Figures from the past year aren’t available yet, but Islamic groups told the paper there has been a recent surge in complaints and that they anticipate the total for 2010 will set a new record.

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reportedly filed a number of prominent lawsuits on behalf of Muslim workers. Many of the claims involve the use of ethnic slurs, hate language and bans on head scarves and prayer breaks. Workers have received settlements in a number of high-profile cases.

Read the full article here:
Muslim Discrimination

The recent debate surrounding the site of a proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan (including the blatant propagandizing of the issue by some politicians), and corresponding anniversary of September 11, will no doubt contribute to an increase in discrimination claims. In fact, with mid-terms and a gubernatorial election season upon us it is likely that the demonization of Muslims by some sects of society will only increase over the next several months. Consequently, it would be very reasonable to assume that there will be a corresponding uptick in claims of discrimination.

Employees should be aware that they are protected by laws governing discrimination and hostility in the workplace. Further, not all discrimination takes place in the open halls of the workplace, and many times employees fall victim to subtle comments or actions by an employer in an isolated setting. Employees who feel that they have been subjected to discrimination should contact an attorney.

From an employer perspective the issue should be clear: treat all employees fairly and equally. New York remains an “at-will” employment state, and employers can and should be able to terminate “at-will.” Taking steps to ensure that any such action does not occur under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination, however, will prove the much wiser strategy in the long run.


Scott M. Peterson is a personal injury and civil litigation partner with the Albany-based law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC, where he handles cases involving these issues. He can be reached at 518-218-7100 or speterson@tullylegal.com.

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