Workplace Discrimination Against Muslims after 9/11

Posted on May 6, 2007


[…] Hadji said that in late 2004, he reproached a customer for harassing a Tunisian waiter. Hadji said he asked the customer to leave after the diner said, “If you don’t like it, go back to your country,” and “I fought two wars to get rid of people like you.”

The restaurant’s owners ordered Hadji to apologize to the customer or resign, Hadji said. Hadji left the restaurant and moved to San Francisco. “All I was trying to do was protect my staff from racial harassment,” he said.

Ray Erlach, an attorney for the restaurant, said the evidence didn’t support the allegations. “The Albion River Inn has had a perfect record for 25 years of inclusivity of all races and religions,” he said. “No one has ever complained.”

Hadji’s case is similar to one filed Sept. 25 by the Los Angeles EEOC office in which a caterer who worked for the Monterey Hill restaurant alleged that she was called “Mrs. Bin Laden,” even though she’s Christian. The suit said the woman was told she watched too much Al Jazeera, the Mideast-based news channel, and was subjected to other discrimination because of her Syrian background. The eatery, located in Monterey Park, is owned by Anaheim-based Specialty Restaurants Corp., operator of nearly 40 outlets, including Castaway in Burbank.

“They say that discrimination doesn’t happen in America anymore, but I have something to say to that,” said the 29-year-old Glendale resident, who asked that her name be withheld for fear of trouble at her new job.

A representative of Specialty Restaurants said the company hadn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment.

In 2005, the Council on American-Islamic Relations received more discrimination complaints in California than any other state — 378, or 19% of all complaints. The council’s L.A. office said 68 of those complaints were workplace-related, up from 56 in 2004. […]

Research by the nonprofit Discrimination Research Center suggests that much employment-related bias has focused on Muslims.

In a 2004 study, the center sent out 6,000 fictitious resumes to employment firms throughout California. All applicants were similarly qualified, but the resumes included 20 names “identifiable” as white, Latino, African American, Asian American, Arab American or South Asian.

The name Heidi McKenzie got the highest response rate, 36.7%, and Abdul-Aziz Mansour got the lowest, 23%. [more]

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Sample cases of discrimination against Muslims post 9/11

Case #1: The Bay Area, CA: A Muslim woman said she received a death threat from a co-worker. Her supervisors treated it as a joke, but ultimately, she left the job because she didn’t feel safe there any longer. (The San Francisco Chronicle, 10 November 2001)

Case #2: Cupertino, CA: A 34-year-old Jordanian-American technician was fired from his job of seven months making computer circuit boards. The week before September 11, his weekly evaluation was positive, as usual. However, the day following the terrorist attacks, his boss gave him his first negative review. Furthermore, his boss required him to report his whereabouts every half-hour. After a week, he lost his job in a series of layoffs. Although there were other layoffs, the company kept technicians with less seniority than his. (Newhouse News Service, 15 October 2001)

Case #3: Fontana, CA: A Muslim high school senior working at a fast-food restaurant was the repeated target of bias jokes from both his coworkers and his manager. At first, coworkers taunted him, asking why his “cousins” destroyed the World Trade Center. Sometime later, his manager began teasing him as well. “Hey, we’re going to have to check you for bombs,” the manager joked, often in front of other employees. Days later, he was fired after he accidentally threw away a paper cup that the manager was using. The management said he was let go for “performance deficiencies.” (The Los Angeles Times, 10 February 2002)

Case #4: Huntington Beach, CA: A doctor from Egypt was abruptly fired from his job at a medical center by his supervisor, who specifically mentioned the doctor’s nationality and religion. The doctor thought of suing, but was worried it would hurt his chances of getting a green card. (This could threaten his future employment opportunities.) (The San Francisco Chronicle, 10 November 2001)

Case #5: Wilmington, NC: A nurse recently converted to Islam and came to work wearing the hijab (head scarf worn by some Muslim women to cover their hair and necks). A doctor called her to his office and said, “You’re being offensive to me and my clients.” She talked to the head manager who assured her not to worry, that they would discuss it the next day. The next morning, the head manager told her, “I can’t ask you to leave and it’s not legal to fire you, but if you want to leave you can.” He also told her, “If you don’t cover your head everything will be OK.” (Reported to the ADC)

Other sources:

1. American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee Handout.