Articles Posted in National Origin Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released a report on 2009 Muslim-American religious employment discrimination complaints: the agency found a disturbing trend. According to the data, in 2009, Muslims filed nearly 1,490 job-related discrimination complaints – marking the fifth consecutive year that this number has increased. Mark Benjamin, a reporter for Salon.com, talked to Arab-American Anti Discrimination Community Director Abed Ayoub about the trend line. Per Ayoub: “I am not the least bit surprised… the data just reaffirms what we see… employment discrimination is a priority issue.”

In the Salon.com article, Benjamin points out that the EEOC’s complaint numbers (from Muslims, regarding employment discrimination) spiked from 2000 to 2002, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. They went from just 557 in 2000 to nearly 1,500 in 2002. But after 2002, the number of complaints dropped precipitously, reaching a low in 2004 of 694.

So what can account for the near doubling in complaints from 2004 to 2009? Some analysts suggest that, perhaps, more victims of religious discrimination, harassment, and retaliation are feeling more comfortable making allegations. Other experts suggest that a wave of recent xenophobic sentiment may be driving the trend. In other words, perhaps de facto religious discrimination is on the rise in American workplaces.

A three-year battle over New York racial discrimination has finally come to a close, as a US District Court Judge awarded current and former African-American employees of Elmer W. Davis Inc., (a Rochester, NY based roofing company) $1 million pursuant to charges that African-American employees had been singled out for mistreatment over many years.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the lawsuit back in 2007 after Samuel Crenshaw, a former roofer, came forward with allegations that Elmer Davis employees had made threats against him and called him racial slurs. Other African-American employees also complained about mistreatment. Dilanjan Jackson, another ex-employee, was quoted saying: “I was called a Hebrew, the N-word, and a drug dealer.” When Jackson reported these problems to supervisor, the manager “laughed at my face and I was laid off.” Another employee, Phil Byford, alleged that his supervisor had sprayed him with tar.

Elmer W. Davis Inc. is the biggest New York roofing contractor with revenues approaching $30 million annually. In response to the verdict, the company maintained that the allegations of racial discrimination were untrue. CEO Jeff Davis said that the firm capitulated to the EEOC settlement because “we simply do not have the unlimited resources and deep pockets that the federal government has to continue litigating.”

On May 25th, the New York Times reported that former Arabic language school principal Debbie Almontaser will not file a New York national origin discrimination case against the Department of Education (D.O.E.), despite a Federal Commission’s ruling early this year that the D.O.E. had discriminated against her in 2007 by forcing her to resign from her position.

As this blog reported several months ago, Ms. Almontaser had come under fire from the D.O.E. after allegations emerged that she provided support to a group of Arabic women who sold shirts featuring the slogan “Intifada NYC.” Ms. Almontaser defended herself in an interview with the New York Post, but the Post allegedly misrepresented what she said in that interview, and the distorted article catalyzed the D.O.E. to take action against her. The Federal Commission found that Ms. Almontaser (who is of Yemeni descent) fell victim to “the very bias that the creation of her school was intended to dispel.”

Although many New York national origin discrimination analysts have argued that the ex-principal would have substantial grounds to sue the D.O.E., the former principal decided after consulting with her attorney to forego a suit because, per the New York Times, “there would be too much emotional pain to pursue it.” Ms. Almontaser released a public statement: “…additional litigation of the discrimination claim would mean reliving the unfortunate and painful events…it was time for me to move on in my professional and personal life.”

New York City has robust anti-employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation laws on the books. But NYC was not always so friendly to claimants. This article briefly reviews the history and evolution of the Big Apple’s journey to ensuring fair treatment for city workers.

1944

Mayor LaGuardia forms the Mayor’s Committee on Unity via an executive order, in part to address citizen concerns following 1943 race riots. LaGuardia’s committee lacks enforcement powers. Despite this, he manages to make some progress, settling disputes in Harlem and Coney Island, and being instrumental in passing a Fair Educational Practices Act.

Religious discrimination against Muslim women wearing a traditional headscarf known as the hijab is a perennial problem, according to officials at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which reports that in the first three months of 2010, more than 40 women in separate incidences complained about discrimination as a result of their wearing hijabs.

For instance, a 19-year old named Naseehah Barlaskar claims that she was denied a job at a local McDonald’s in Michigan because she insisted on wearing what her prospective manager called “that thing.” In response to this allegation, a McDonald’s spokesman issued the following statement: “McDonald’s has a strict policy prohibiting any form of discrimination. These allegations are not consistent with our policies.”

In San Francisco, a college student named Hani Khan sued a San Francisco clothing store owned by Abercrombie & Fitch. Khan alleges that her supervisors told her to remove her hijab in order to work at the store. She refused the instructions and was subsequently fired. Abercrombie & Fitch is no stranger to disputes about racial discrimination, gender discrimination, and other employment discrimination. In 2004, A&F had to pay out $50 million to a class of people who brought action via the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has weighed in on touchy, high profile allegations of New York religious employment discrimination related to the case of Debbie Almontaser, a former Principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, an Arabic-language public school.

The case has a complex back story, so put your reading glasses on and settle in:

Ms. Almontaser took over as principal of the dual language academy in 2007. Shortly after she took the helm, however, conservative opponents began to brand her as a militant Islamist. She denied the allegations, and independent sources confirmed her moderate political temperament. Nevertheless, a group called Stop the Madrassa Coalition formed and claimed that she was linked to a campaign to sell shirts bearing the slogan “Intifada NYC” — a reference to a militant Islamic point of view.

An EEOC-championed national origin discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart has left the Bentonville, Arkansas-based megastore reeling. According to a February 8th story in the New York Times, a group of West African men allege that a Wal-Mart store in Avon, Colorado fired them because of their race and African heritage.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission allegations say that, in January 2009, a new manager took over the Wal-Mart store in Avon and promptly called a meeting of the staff — many of whom happened to be West African. The manager allegedly said, “I don’t like some of the faces I see here. There are people in Eagle County who need jobs.” He also allegedly remarked, “Wow, there are a lot of Africans, and I don’t like some of the faces I see here.”

Subsequent to this manager’s takeover, many West African employees were reportedly subject to extra criticism and stiffer workloads. One 61-year old man exhausted himself stacking boxes — he was not physically capable of doing the work. West African employees also reported that Hispanic and white Wal-Mart associates got to take cigarette breaks, even though they were disallowed short prayer breaks.

A long smoldering New York race discrimination allegation against the NYC Fire Department has ignited a firestorm of commentary. Judge Nicolas G. Garaufis ruled on January 14th that the NYC Fire Department had intentionally discriminated against applicants based on their race, and that the city must take immediate corrective actions.

The Vulcan Society (an organization of black New York City firefighters) applauded Judge Garaufis’ decision to order the city to compensate minority firefighter applicants who applied for positions from the years 1989 to 2002. This would cover around 7,400 applicants, of whom the city is now required to hire 293. These candidates must be black or Hispanic, and some of them must be granted retroactive seniority.

Judge Garaufis stopped short of ordering the Fire Department to install a quota system for hiring minority applicants; instead, he urged all parties to work together to resolve any disputes that might arise in the execution of his orders. Judge Garaufis was quoted in the New York Times: “Achieving these basic aims [ensuring that qualified, diverse individuals come to be accepted as New York City firefighters] will require ongoing oversight, attention to many details and resolution of disputes among the parties.” (New York Times; January 21st, 2010).

How does race discrimination impact New York City job applicants? Two researchers at Princeton University’s Department of Sociology, Devah Pager and Bruce Western, tackled this subject in a new paper entitled Race at Work: Realities of Race and Criminal Record in the NYC Job Market.

Opinion polls indicate that the majority of Americans believe we’re living in a land of equal opportunity; a recent Gallop Poll showed that around 75 percent of Americans believes that whites and blacks are treated as equals on the job market.

The authors investigated this belief by following nearly 1,500 entry-level job applicants in New York for nearly a year to determine whether their race/ethnicity would impact their prospects on the job market.

On July 22, a federal judge ruled in a prominent race discrimination case that the New York City Fire Department’s old written examinations were biased against minority applicants. Judge Nicolas Garaufis agreed with the Department of Justice, which argued that the exams given by the City from 1999 through 2007 were unfairly biased towards white candidates. The lawsuit bears striking similarities to the reverse discrimination lawsuit filed by New Haven firefighter Frank Ricci against the city of New Haven, Connecticut which captured national media attention due to the fact that one of the appellate judges to rule on the matter, Sonia Sotomayor, was selected as President Obama’s first U.S. Supreme Court nominee.

Although the NYFD changed its employment practices in 2007 to recruit more minorities — indeed, the City spent over $2 million on a recruitment campaign to swell the numbers of minorities in the Fire Department — representatives of a Black Firefighters Association, the New York Vulcan Society, appeared less than impressed with the attempted fixing of racial discrimination within the ranks. According to a CNN report, the President of the Vulcan Society said of the Fire Department’s recent increases in diversity: “If you have abysmal numbers and you increase them slightly, don’t applaud yourself like you’ve done a great job.”

In the 21st century, cases of racial discrimination and retaliation on the job can lead to incredible social, moral, and legal complexities. That’s why it’s so important for potential claimants to retain the services of top-tier attorneys, like the representatives here at Joseph & Kirschenbaum. To find out more about the firm’s extensive and highly successful record at bringing racial discrimination and retaliation cases, head to www.jhllp.com or phone (212) 688-5640 for immediate assistance.