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On November 19, 2001, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor issued a joint statement against workplace bias. The statement emphasizes the alarming increase in incidents of harassment, discrimination and violence in the workplace against employees who are, or perceived to be, Arab Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian or Sikh following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The joint statement highlights the agencies? intensified efforts to combat and eradicate workplace discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, national origin or immigration status. The statement urges all employers to reiterate and enforce workplace policies against harassment, discrimination and retaliation. The statement also requests employers encourage employees to report improper conduct through internal complaint procedures, or to appropriate government agencies. In addition, the statement urges employers charged with these types of discrimination claims to cooperate with government agencies to voluntarily resolve the charges.

To enhance its enforcement capabilities in this area, the EEOC has also implemented new data codes, retroactive to September 11, 2001, to track charges of workplace discrimination filed by individuals who are, or perceived to be, Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern or Sikh.

As of December 6, the EEOC had received 166 formal complaints of workplace discrimination specifically related to the September 11 attacks. The majority of the charges involve terminations. A significant number of charges also allege harassment.

Employers should take special note of the federal government's heightened interest in religious, ethnic and national origin discrimination charges and the enhanced tracking technology being employed to closely monitor these types of charges.

The joint statement, and related statistical charge information, can be viewed on the EEOC's web site.

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