DR. ZIAD ASALI
ELIZABETH M. THORNTON
JAMES R. NEELY, JR.
This transcript was produced from tapes provided by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
I. Opening Remarks
Vice Chair Igasaki
II. Panel 1: Community Representatives
Dr. Ziad Asali
Question and Answer Session
III. Panel 2: Employer Responses/Best Practices
Question and Answer Session
IV. Panel 3: EEOC Response
Elizabeth M. Thornton
James R. Neely, Jr.
Question and Answer Session
V. Closing Remarks by Chair Dominguez
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ:Let's call the meeting to order.
Good afternoon. On behalf of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, let me welcome each and every one of you to our very first 2001 Commission meeting, and my very first as Chair of the EEOC. And I can't think of a more appropriate, relevant, timely, and important issue than national original and religious discrimination in the workplace post September 11th to use as the forum, as the main forum here for discussions today.
Let me thank our distinguished and invited guests for joining us this afternoon. I truly appreciate your being here and your presence and your many contributions that we've been working with you one on one. We greatly appreciate it.
I'm also very pleased to recognize one of my colleagues and policy leader from the Department of Labor, Charles James, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. I understand we also have some representatives from Justice Department. Labor, Justice, and EEOC work very closely in issuing a joint statement that you'll be hearing about a little later. So I want to extend to them a warm welcome.
And I also want to recognize the -- all of the panel members. We have three panels today. And all of the panel members, appreciate your being here, and I'll introduce you shortly.
Also, I want to extend a warm welcome to one of our former Commissioners, Reg Jones, who is here. Thank you, Reg, for joining us on this important day.
Before we proceed with the presentations, let me ask Bernadette Wilson to announce the notation votes that have taken place since the last Commission meeting.
MS. WILSON: Good afternoon, Chair Dominguez, Vice Chair, Commissioner. I'm Bernadette Wilson from the Executive Secretariat.
During the period July 26th, 2000, through December 7th, 2001, the Commission acted on 186 items by notation vote -- approved litigation on 97 cases; disapproved litigation on nine cases; approved intervention on three cases; approved holding a Commission meeting on September 25th, 2000, to discuss litigation; approved for OMB coordination and Federal Register publication a final rule on Waiver of Rights and Claims, Tender Back of Consideration; approved the EEOC strategic plan for FY 2000-2005.
Approved four library subscriptions with West Group, two with Bureau of National Affairs, and one with Information Handling Services, Commerce Clearing House Inc., and Matthew Bender; approved guidance for federal agencies on establishing procedures to facilitate the provision of reasonable accommodation; approved the procurement of laborer/truck driver, mail center, and duplication center services.
Approved maintenance agreements for the Automated Procurement System, two contracts each with OCE Office Systems and Xerox, for photocopier maintenance; approved Compliance Manual sections on compensation discrimination and employee benefits; approved continuation of consolidated telephone service for the Chicago District Office; approved procurement of office supplies and related services for EEOC Headquarters.
Approved a Commission decision on Coverage of Contraception; approved Resolutions honoring 17 individuals; approved an enforcement guidance on the application of the Americans with Disabilities Act to contingent workers placed by temporary agencies and other staffing firms; approved FY 2001 state and local contracting principles and program allocations.
Approved project management services to support the transition to a new financial management system; approved a federal sector decision in Greene v. USPS; approved EEOC's regulatory agendas for October 2000, April 2001, and October 2001; approved subscriptions for web access to the Daily Labor Report and for Personet.com with West Group; approved the purchase of additional Novell Zenworks licenses and maintenance and new network switches for EEOC Headquarters LAN and WAN.
Approved the acquisition of 542 desktop computers, 426 desktop computers, 325 Dell laptop computers, Xerox and Cannon photocopier equipment for Headquarters and field offices, 277 Hewlett-Packard laser jet printers, mailing scales for field offices, the Quickhire automated recruitment tool, and upgraded hardware and software for the integrated mission system.
Approved sole source awards for a Federal Sector Conference Facility, hotel services for Office of Field Programs FY 2001 training programs, the Trial Skills Workshop training program, and the EEOC basic mediation skills training program; approved the lease of software licensing and maintenance agreements with Oracle, and Novell, and Corel; approved the acquisition of professional services to perform a business process improvement study of the human resource and financial transaction processes.
Approved a labor economist services contract for EEOC v. Autozone, expert services for EEOC v. TIC, and actuarial services for the cash balance pension plan task force; approved computer maintenance service with UniSys for EEOC computer equipment, and subsequently exercised a one-year option on that contract; approved the recision of Section IV(b) of Compliance Manual chapter on employee benefits and deletion of example.
Approved the federal sector disability rule reflecting the 1992 amendment of Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act; and approved a request to allow TV cameras and other audiovisual equipment at this Commission Meeting.
Madam Chair, it is appropriate at this time that we have a motion to close a portion of the next meeting.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Do I have a motion?
PARTICIPANT: So moved.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Second?
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: All in favor?
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Opposed?
The motion carries.
The terrorist attacks of September 11th struck at the heart of the American workplace. Three months later, their effects continue to reverberate throughout the country. While employers and employees alike are experiencing changes and new challenges, from security demands to job losses and anxieties about the future, the aftereffects of the attacks have fallen particularly hard on the communities whose representatives we have invited here today.
We have called this meeting to focus on the employment issues that the events of September 11th have triggered, and our responsibilities relating to them. We have received many reports of employment discrimination since September 11th against people who are, or are perceived to be, Arab, Muslim, Sikh, Eastern, or -- Middle Eastern, or South Asians.
Our purpose today is to promote greater understanding of the equal employment laws and the protections they provide to individuals of any national origin, race, or religion, who are vulnerable to discrimination at this time.
We are guided in our efforts by the leadership of President Bush and his vow when taking office in January to "build a single nation of justice and opportunity." And today we advance that promise.
On behalf of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, I, along with my fellow Commissioners, want to extend to you a warm welcome, and especially warm welcome, to our speakers. Our first panel includes those who have been at the forefront of the national response working tirelessly to educate, to inform the public, and to protect individual rights and the rule of law.
I would like to introduce them now. Jean AbiNader, Managing Director of the Arab-American Institute; Dr. Ziad Asali, President of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee; Amardeep Singh, the Legal Director of the Sikh Coalition; Arshad Majid of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers.
Our second panel are two employers. They will present successful measures that they have taken and have put in place since September 11th to head off potential discrimination. Betsy Bosak, Director of Affirmative Action, Diversity and Employee Relations for TRW Space and Electronics in Redondo Beach, California. Betsy? And Thomas Korber, Senior Director of Human Resources, Astra-Zenica Pharmaceuticals in Wilmington, Delaware. Welcome.
Our third panel will be EEOC officials from Headquarters and the Detroit District Office, which has enforcement jurisdiction over one of the largest metropolitan populations of Muslims, Arab-Americans, and Middle Easterners.
These days we often hear the refrain that because of September 11th everything has changed. But the more things change, the more they stay the same for EEOC. Our mission is enduring -- to ensure that working men and women have the freedom to compete without the barriers of unlawful discrimination and the indignities of illegal harassment.
Our job includes providing avenues for access to EEOC as well, making sure that people who have been discriminated against know their rights and the availability of remedies. Because many victims are hesitant to come forward because of cultural or language barriers or immigration status, I want to assure the members of the public that anyone who believes that he or she has been the subject to -- subjected to workplace discrimination may file a charge with EEOC.
Let me make a final point. At a time when many are engaging in stereotyping, we urge employers to follow the law rather than turning reflexively to the stereotype of national origin or religion as a basis for their employment decisions.
Let me now recognize my colleagues and fellow Commissioners, Vice Chair Paul Igasaki and Commissioner Paul Miller, who will each make a brief opening statement. Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: Thank you, Madam Chair. And I wanted to start off by welcoming you to our body and to our leadership.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: We've been here for a while, and we are off to a really great start, and I look forward to working with both you and our other colleagues when they arrive.
Sixty years ago last Friday, American was stunned by the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. The nation was shocked by something we could not have imagined. Our sense of security was shattered. Almost immediately a nightmare began for those Americans whose only crime was that they looked like the enemy.
Japanese Americans faced violence, homes, farms, and businesses were bombed or vandalized, and many lost their jobs. Initial pleas for tolerance gave way quickly to revenge, and the round up and detention of Japanese Americans, including all of my relatives, took place. It's a road we cannot afford to travel again.
The brutal attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon three months ago today again shattered our sense of security. And as before, there has been scapegoating of those who look like the enemy. There have been Muslim Americans, and, indeed, anyone perceived as such, including Indian Americans, particularly Sikhs and others as well.
Civil rights groups have catalogued well over a thousand such incidents, ranging from hate crimes to workplace harassment. Reports of hate crimes have dropped off recently, but job discrimination still appears to be a serious problem.
President Bush, speaking for the American Islamic Center, said that these terrorist attacks were not the acts of a religion or an ethnic group. The terrorists see the world through that lens, but we must not. Any response to terrorism should not be so targeted.
This nation is defined by our diversity. Venting one's anger on others in America based on national origin or religion is an attack on our nation itself, our unity, and our values.
Along with our government partners, the EEOC is responsible for enforcing our nation's laws against job discrimination. Since September 11th, I have met with affected communities and individuals around the nation. Arab and Indian Americans have reported significant and troubling incidents of discrimination. Terminations make up about two-thirds of the charges we have received. Others report a rasp in racial -- physical attacks to threatening e-mails or graffiti, and adverse changes in working conditions.
Others have complained that clothing or beards required by religious practice have been restricted. Some Arab Americans and Muslims have reported employers taking adverse actions against them because of customer preference -- a factor that is never an excuse for illegal discrimination.
Arab and Muslim American community groups and individuals have also complained that since September 11th have received dramatically fewer, if any, job offers, recruitment contacts, or even job interviews.
Based upon the cases reported by community and civil rights organizations, and what I heard in my meetings, it is clear that many individuals believe they have been discriminated against but are not filing formal charges. While many Arab and Indian Americans are long-standing American residents or citizens, most are immigrants to this country. Immigrants of most groups are reluctant to make legal complaints.
There are sometimes language or cultural barriers, and often people do not have information about their rights. A legal system that is intimidating to most is all the more so to someone who is less familiar with it and perhaps less confident that they will be treated fairly. For many, their distrust of government is heightened substantially when they feel racial profiling or compromises of their legal rights.
We urge employers to reiterate the corporate values in favor of diversity and against discrimination. We are eager to work with companies that want to put on training or other programs to reduce tension and threaten discrimination. We are very interested in hearing about any successful or creative efforts to that end following the September 11th attacks.
In situations where individuals may be afraid or otherwise hesitant to come forward, they must nevertheless find ways to fight discrimination if we are to have the deterrent effect that a law enforcement agency must have.
Waiting for people to come to us is simply not enough. Multi-lingual brochures, close cooperation with community organizations, and making presentations or taking charge of the community locations have all been necessary. We have needed to act based on reports in the media or by community groups, and, when necessary, to utilize Commissioner charges and third party charges to proceed with an investigation.
To reach immigrant groups, we have issued a guidance that explains our employment discrimination laws protect all workers, irrespective of immigration status. We have found that we must build trust to be effective.
While we have done a lot since September 11th and before, we need the support and cooperation of employers, community groups, and individuals to be more effective in identifying and preventing discrimination that has grown out of the attacks of September 11th.
Our national promises of due process and equal protection are only meaningful if they work in the toughest of times and in the protection of those Americans who may be the least popular at any point in history.
During World War II, that was my family. Today, they are Arab Americans, Muslim Americans, and others perceived to be so. Our security cannot be purchased at the expense of what defines this country. Our national interest must be of justice, unity, and the rule of law, not prejudice or revenge.
Thank you. I look forward to hearing the remarks of our panelists.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Vice Chair.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you, Chair Dominguez.
I want to welcome you and David Frank and Ann Callgrove and all of your respective staffs to the Commission. You have faced -- you have been faced with some tremendous challenges in your first months as Chair, and you and your team have risen to the occasion. You have demonstrated great leadership and compassion during these challenges -- qualities and skills that will serve this Commission well into the future.
I look forward to working with you and your team over the next several years. I also want to congratulate the Chair for holding this Commission meeting. As you and the Vice Chair have so eloquently articulated, these are important issues which deserve the focus and attention of this agency, both at this Commission meeting and in the work that we do when we leave.
The events of September 11th shook this nation, and this agency in particular, to its core. But we have seen both the nation and the employees of the EEOC respond admirably. Unfortunately, there have been those who, in the midst of a national crisis, have allowed their bigotry and their hate to dictate their actions. Such stereotyping is particularly appalling and sinister as it corrupts the very values that are at the core of who we are as a people and as a nation.
I want to extend a warm welcome to our guests who have joined us today to share their perspectives on discrimination in the workplace. I read with interest your written comments, and I look forward to our dialogue together this afternoon.
While the EEOC has responded creatively and aggressively to our changed environment, I am interested in hearing from our panelists what else needs to be done. What are the gaps in our response and in our enforcement, and where do we go from here?
How can we, as the lead workplace enforcement agency in the Federal Government, how can we be helpful to both the employer and the worker communities? Some parts of this country have an especially large community of Arab Americans and Muslims. How are our offices in these environments, in these communities, these areas, responding? And where, if any, should we place a particular geographic focus?
Are there further instructions or directions that Washington needs to give to help our offices deal in this new, changed environment?
Again, I want to welcome our guests here today, and I look forward to hearing ways in which the EEOC can better address the issue of discrimination in the workplace on the part of Arab Americans and Muslims here today.
Thank you very much.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Commissioner Miller.
It is now with great pleasure that I invite our first distinguished group of panel members to please come forward. We look forward to hearing your comments and sharing your expertise and experiences with us.
Let me just briefly remind you that Title VII does require EEOC to keep charges confidential. So while we welcome specific information, please -- just want to remind you not to reveal identifying details of cases or names of parties to the extent that you will be including those in your remarks.
Again, thank you. I know some of you have traveled long distances to be here, and it reflects the level of commitment and the opportunity that we have to continue to promote and heighten awareness to this issue.
Thank you very much.
Let's begin with Mr. AbiNader.
MR. ABINADER: Thank you, Chair Dominguez, Vice Chair Igasaki, Commissioner Miller. It's a great pleasure to be here on behalf of our organization. I wanted to extend to you our greetings from George Salem, who, as you probably know, previously served as Solicitor of Labor in Reagan two, and was originally scheduled to be here but due to a conflict was unable to be here.
However, I bring his wishes and respectful congratulations for holding these hearings, and extend our continued cooperation with the Commission as we go forward to deal with the issues that we're going to raise today.
But I'd also like to say that our colleagues at the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee have been the national repository for most of the legal work done on the employment issues. And I'm sure that Ziad will be presenting more details on that. So rather than cross over with their work, I'll just present a larger introductory set of comments.
The Arab American Institute represents the political and civic aspirations of our community by promoting its full involvement in the electoral life of our country at all levels. AAI is also a key voice in the community for promoting domestic and international policies that we believe best serve America's interests at home and in our relationships abroad, particularly with the Arab world.
We are pleased to have the opportunity to present our perspectives on how the tragic events of September 11th have impacted the Arab American community. You will hear many cases from our colleagues that illustrate the kinds of challenges that we have encountered. Overall, we must state that the impact on the community has fallen most heavily upon those with the least experience and awareness needed to defend themselves.
One of the most interesting phenomena that I have experienced since the events of September 11th is the largely ignorant level of knowledge about Arab Americans in this country.
So I'd like to just briefly point out two things. One is that I've brought some materials that we've placed outside that talk about who the Arab American community is, our experience in this country since the immigration started in the 1880s in large numbers, and who we are today in terms of some of the personalities that many of you will recognize.
Some of the factors about the community that are interesting is that when you look at the stereotype of who Arab Americans are, the first two things you hear from people are that we're Muslims, we're immigrants, and we're largely from Palestine or Egypt.
The reality is over 65 percent of us are Christians. We're mostly from Lebanon and Syria. And most of us are second and third generation Americans whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents came to this country.
So it's extraordinary that people say to us, "Well, then, why do you bother? Why are you bothering with these immigrants? Why are you bothering with Muslims?" in terms of their issues, in terms of the workplace. Because they're part of who we are. They're part of the culture that we come from, and they're part of the legacy that we bring to this country and contribute to the diversity of this country.
Second and third generation Arab Americans have not noticed significant changes in their work environments. The taunts, jeers, inappropriate political and racial slurs, that some encountered have largely disappeared, although we note that there is an upsurge in complaints immediately following each of the warnings issued by the Federal Government over the past five weeks.
Yet by and large, those who were born in this country have encountered fewer obstacles than those who are immigrants, some of whom have been in this country for more than 30 years.
The situation is also more difficult for Arab Americans who are immigrants or are Muslims and publicly affirm their faith through adherence to guidelines regarding dress, daily prayers, fasting, and similar responsibilities that impact the work environment.
Just as the Commission has been instrumental in protecting the rights of Americans of the Jewish religion to dress, dietary restrictions, and observances of holy days, it is now time to act aggressively to obtain these same protections for Muslims.
It is ironic that Muslims are being singled out by their co-workers for practicing their religion faithfully, reminding me how it was when I first worked in an office and was kidded for having ashes on my forehead on Ash Wednesday.
If we could remember our own encounters with work discrimination, perhaps it might make us pause before we reach out to strike verbally at a fellow employee because we feel a need to personally remedy the horrors of September 11th.
The larger question, however, is dealing with the discrimination, bias, bigotry, and disrespect that have become more visible since September 11th. I say more visible because we must be honest and admit that there is the latent anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States that is reflected in the labels that co-workers use when they taunt Arab Americans and American Muslims.
Ranging from the innocuous "sandscratcher" and "raghead" to "terrorist," "freak," and "Christian-hater," this brand of anti-semitism is no more acceptable than its older sibling. We are Americans. And when it is acceptable for these jeers to dominate the workplace environment, then we are marginalized as members of this society.
Cases you will hear about today, whether the source is Arab American, American Muslim, Sikh American, or anyone else, are all concerned with eliminating the sense of intimidation and fear that is routinely felt whenever events in the Middle East or elsewhere raise the ire of the American public.
Although government leaders, specifically the President and Secretary and the Attorney General, have cautioned against backlash. Conditions in the workplace where people are in daily contact with one another require a more forceful and long-term solution.
Respect for diversity must move beyond platitudes and formulas to a spirit of tolerance and understanding that recognizes that we are all from somewhere else, and that is the source of America's vitality.
Arab Americans are ready to be part of the solution. Through educational materials available on our websites, participation in panels and seminars, multi-ethnic and interfaith programs, volunteerism, meetings, and discussion groups, we have reached out in the workplace after workplace to raise the level of discourse beyond stereotypes and rancor.
The shop floor, trading floor, restaurant, Wal-mart, manufacturing plant, and service industries are aware the struggle is taking place, and we need allies in management, labor, on state commissions, and the federal level to ensure that we will, as a society, rise beyond the prejudice of the moment to achieve a better understanding of ourselves and that which makes the United States so singular.
We encourage the Commission to reaffirm its long-standing policies against discrimination and bias, particularly toward Arab Americans, American Muslims, and others affected in the aftermath of September 11th.
By strengthening your database for collecting and collating complaints nationally, the Commission can help identify trends locally that should be dealt with forcefully. More extensive coordination with state and local commissions can help create outreach opportunities for training and information dissemination while gathering incidents of best practices that can be offered throughout the country.
While there is no short-term remedy to workplace discrimination toward Arab Americans and American Muslims, this hearing is an important indicator that Chair Dominguez is committed to ensuring that the Commission continues its vital role in defense of equal employment.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much.
DR. ASALI: Madam Chair, Honorable Commissioners, on behalf of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, ADC, I would like to thank the Commission for inviting me to discuss the highly disturbing pattern of employment discrimination in the wake of September 11 terrorist attacks.
My name is Ziad Asali, M.D., and I am President of the nation's largest membership organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Arab Americans.
ADC was established in 1980 by former United States Senator James Abourezk to combat stereotyping, discrimination, and harassment of Americans of Arab dissent. ADC operates offices in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York City, and Cleveland, as well as approximately 80 grass roots chapters nationwide.
Like most of your forefathers, I came to this country believing it to be the beacon for democracy, equality, and justice for all. I am a proud American, who during my career as a physician that spanned a quarter of a century, has had the opportunity to be both an employee and an employer.
I have worked within the system, and I'm familiar with the self-correcting mechanisms that it provides to address excesses and address grievances. It is a system we all have reason to be proud of.
It has now been two months since I had last had the pleasure of meeting with EEOC Chair Dominguez concerning this issue. ADC has enjoyed a very close working relationship with EEOC, and has worked with the former Chair on these issues. To date, ADC has forwarded to the Commission approximately 115 incidents of employment discrimination nationwide since September 11th.
ADC has also provide the EEOC with 150 copies of ADC's unmasking job discrimination. It's a booklet in Arabic and in English for use in various Commission field offices. We have worked with EEOC officials in coordinating Vice Chair Paul Igasaki's very constructive meetings with the Arab American community members in Philadelphia, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Chicago, among other places.
Today, I'm here to provide you with a representative sample, and I say "sample," of some of those 115 cases of employment discrimination that ADC has forwarded to the Commission since September 11th of this year. These cases include examples of job termination, complaint abuse, discriminatory policy, hostile work environment, and ethnic slurs, national origin discrimination, and termination, after questioning by the FBI.
They come from various geographical locations and involve both private and public employees -- employers. The states with the highest number of reported incidents are California, Texas, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. The following are eight examples.
One, job termination. A lady was employed by an employer in California from February 27th to September 13th of this year when she was terminated with no reason given. She had received nothing but excellent customer service ratings in the six and a half months she had worked for the employer.
She was terminated after her supervisor told her not to say anything to anyone about her husband being a Palestinian, even though he is a U.S. citizen. She then received an e-mail from her supervisor asking that no one in the office reveal that their religion -- reveal their religion or their ethnicity.
Two, discriminatory policy. An account manager working for a security firm in Washington State was informed by a client company about a new policy on race and religion at the company, which required that all contractors, including the security firm, to exclude all non-U.S. citizens, all Americans of Arab dissent, and all persons who may be Muslims from working at the company's facility.
Three, hostile work environment and ethnic slurs. A gentlemen in Maryland faced repeated ethnic intimidation and physical threats with the use of vulgar language. The gentleman works at a construction site with contractors from other states. When he reported the threats and harassment to his supervisors, his supervisor responded by asking, "Don't you think they have a right to be angry?" And then asked him why he was not wearing patriotic clothing or pins.
Four, national origin discrimination. A gentleman working for a maintenance company faced questioning by the corporate security officials after using a phone to call his own home. The company is a contractor at an airport. The gentleman was asking at another company's facility in the airport between September 10 and 12.
As a maintenance worker, he has access to all buildings within the facility and was doing routine maintenance work. On September 12th, he was questioned by two security officers from corporate security about his use of a phone at the location in which he worked. He explained it is accepted practice to allow the workers to use phones in the facility for in all state calls, and he, indeed, did use the phone twice to call his home.
Corporate security questioned him about his national origin, whether he lived -- where he lived, and what he did in his native country, how long he lived in the U.S., who his friends in the U.S. were, what is his immigration status, and what -- what and who he knew in his native country.
He alleged that corporate security first did not allow him to use the phone to call his wife and mother who were waiting for his call. When he informed them that he instructed his wife to call the police if he did not call her within a specific period of time, the two officers permitted him to use the phone but instructed him to speak only in English.
When he objected, saying that his mother did not speak English, they said that they would not provide him with a phone at all unless he speaks English, which he finally agreed to do. Later the same day, his manager informed him that the other company requested that he no longer work in their facility at the airport, and he was transferred to another facility.
Five, national origin discrimination. A lady who was applying for the same job as another Arab American was told by the recruiter who was assisting her in her job search, "Everyone is skiddish about hiring him." According to the lady, the recruiter then said she was talking to another recruiter who said she does not even represent Middle Eastern people to employers anymore, because no one will hire them.
Six, job termination. A college instructor reported that a Saudi Arabian student was insulted and threatened by an American student at her college cafeteria in view of a dozen people. The Saudi student was terrorized, withdrew to her dorm room where he -- where she remained most of the time for more than three weeks, and required to get transportation back to Saudi Arabia.
The instructor continually requested that the program director take forceful action to support the student. He also asked the student to press the college administration to deal with the issue. According to the instructor, the college took no action on this issue.
After two weeks with no action, the instructor wrote a letter to the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the college. The Chairperson returned the letter to the college authorities, who called the instructor into a meeting where they focused on the unfairness of his criticism and the offense they took at his charges. The instructor was then terminated from his 13-year old job.
Ethnic slurs and job termination. An Egyptian-born U.S. citizen was terminated from his job after serving in that position for 14 years. A gentleman was the victim of ethnic slurs and derogatory remarks based on his national origin. He was repeatedly referred to as a "sand nigger."
Although he complained about the derogatory remarks, nothing was done to rectify the situation. After September 11th, the gentleman faced increased discrimination at his office. Upon hearing news that a suspect in connection with September 11th terrorist attacks had been detained, the gentleman's supervisors allegedly joked, "Did he have a rag on his head?"
A colleague of the gentleman overheard the slur and informed him of the comment. A week after reporting this incident both men were fired, receiving letters which read, "You have challenged my integrity, impeding my authority to operate this office. Your action is harassment and a breach of trust in our relationship."
Eight, and last, termination after FBI questioning. Three members of the same family were terminated by a state agency after being visited by special agents of the FBI at their place of work during the last week of September. They were all legally employed as residents of the United States.
The EEOC has been one of the most responsive federal agencies in addressing these incidents and crises. I personally and on behalf of the employees of ADC and its work wish to thank you for providing us with the opportunity and for your continued effort and dedication in assisting the ADC to deal with the employment discrimination incidents nationwide.
ADC is committed to continuing its close working relationship with the EEOC and hopes to be included in future outreach efforts. Thank you very much.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Dr. Asali. Appreciate it.
MR. SINGH: I'd like to thank the Commission, and especially Chair Dominguez, for allowing me the opportunity to share some of the workplace experiences of the Sikh American community since the tragic events of September 11th.
Like other agencies within the Federal Government, the EEOC has been proactive in attempting to ensure that America's core values are reaffirmed by not allowing the terror of three months ago now to result in terror against fellow Americans.
We are thankful for the immediate public statement by Chair Dominguez after September 11th encouraging fellow Americans not to harass or intimidate any employee because of their religious or national origin. We are also thankful for the joint statement by the EEOC, Department of Justice, and Department of Labor against employment discrimination in the aftermath of 9/11.
On behalf of the Sikh American community, I would also like to congratulate the Commission on its first meeting under the leadership of Chair Dominguez. We welcome the opportunity to offer our thoughts and concerns in this forum and join the fight against terrorism on the domestic front.
Like all Americans, Sikh Americans have contributed richly to the workplace and America in general. The largest federal court security contractor for the U.S. Marshals Service is a Sikh American-owned company. The inventor of fiber optics is a Sikh American. The chief marketing officer for Palm, Inc. is also a Sikh American. America's largest peach grower is a Sikh American. And last, but not least, one of the first doctors to arrive on the scene to treat victims at ground zero and, indeed, a true hero of 9/11 is a Sikh American.
Some fellow Americans, however, when they look at me or any other Sikh, don't always see a fellow American. Sadly, some Americans associate the turban, which is a mandatory article of faith in the Sikh religion, with terrorists such as Osama bin Laden. I can say with great assurance that 99 percent of the persons who wear turbans in this country are Sikh Americans, and therein lines the very cruel irony of the Sikh American experience since the 11th.
We are not Arab, and we are not Muslim or Hindu. Sikhism is its own religion with its own religious text, places of worship, and religious tenets. It is not a sect of any other religion, and ethnically almost all Sikhs are from South Asian, not the Middle East.
This is not to say -- and let me be 100 percent clear on this -- that any American, whether it's our Arab or Muslim American brothers and sisters, or a Christian or a Jewish person, or a white or a Latino or black, should suffer discrimination of any kind. But as you can see, the situation with regard to Sikh Americans is ironic. Not only have we suffered a cruel and hateful backlash, but we have also been the victims of great ignorance about our background.
As a result, since September 11th, Sikh Americans have suffered verbal harassment, damage to property, beatings, humiliating and invasive religious profiling at airports, and in one instance even murder.
As the new tracking codes instituted by the Commission demonstrate, the workplace is also not immune from the backlash experienced against many -- experienced by many Americans since September 11th. It is disturbing to learn that over 130 incidents of workplace discrimination relating to September 11th have been identified by the Commission thus far.
Unfortunately, Sikh Americans are also the victims of this workplace backlash. I will relate three representative examples. The first two examples relate to discrimination against Sikhs because of their religiously mandated articles of faith, and the last relates to ignorance about the heritage of Sikh Americans.
Here is the first example. A few weeks after September 11th, a Sikh American working as a courier for a shipping service delivered a package to a business as part of his job and left. Thereafter, a person outside the office building, who viewed the Sikh American enter the building with a package and leave without it, phoned the local police saying that a person with a turban who looked Arab or Muslim -- looked of Arab or Muslim descent, delivered a suspicious package to a business.
The police and local fire company evacuated the building for fear that a bomb was placed in the package. After hearing about the incident, the Sikh delivery person's manager told him that customers had been complaining about his appearance.
The manager asked him to remove his turban and cut his beard. Both the turban and beard are religiously mandated articles of faith for Sikhs. For fear of losing his livelihood, this Sikh American very reluctantly and humiliatingly complied with the request. He trimmed his beard and replaced his turban with a baseball cap.
He was fired anyway, and has since had difficulty finding a job. He has been treated for exacerbated depression as a result of this degradation.
Next example. A Sikh American woman submitted a resume at a temporary employment agency two months after September 11th. She soon received a telephone call asking her to come to the agency for an interview. Fearing that the agency may be weary of her religious appearance, she informed the agency that she wore a turban.
The recruitment director at the agency told her that she would call her back soon. Later that same day, the recruitment director left a message on the woman's answering machine telling her that the agency's corporate clients would not deem the turban as looking professional. The recruitment director then canceled the Sikh woman's interview.
Our last example, a Sikh electrical engineer was talking to another engineer in the -- on the morning of September 11th, 2001. The engineer was speaking in interspersed Punjabi and English to his co-worker about immigration-related matters and joking about the difficulty of finding a good attorney.
Secretaries at his company observed the two having this animated discussion. They assumed that the Sikh engineer was speaking Arabic, was of Middle Eastern descent because of his turban and beard, and was celebrating the events of September 11th with his co-worker.
The engineer was summoned by his supervisor that day and suspended. The engineer attempted to explain to his employers that he knew nothing about Middle Eastern politics and was not Middle Eastern or Muslim and so could not be possibly celebrating the events of September 11th. He was, nevertheless, fired a week later.
It should be clear from the above examples that Sikh Americans have suffered a backlash in the workplace since September 11th and will likely continue to do so in the future if proactive measures are not taken to prevent and combat it.
I would, therefore, to end my remarks by suggesting ways in which this Commission can further its mission of preventing the violation of our employment-related anti-discrimination laws.
One, proactive prevention. It is heartening to know that one of the key priorities within the five-point plan the Commission is creating under its new leadership is the proactive prevention of employment discrimination before it occurs. To that end, the Commission, like other federal agencies, can take many preventive steps. I will suggest an important first step.
It would be very helpful to have a fact sheet on Sikhs, Muslims, and Arabs, and post-September 11th employment discrimination. It is my understanding that very soon after September 11th, because of the exigency of the situation, the Commission proactively created a brief fact sheet with one-sentence examples of backlash-related employment discrimination.
However, a much more detailed fact sheet with substantive questions and answers on backlash-related discrimination is now in order. The Department of Transportation has created a similar fact sheet to the one I'm asking the Commission to create today, and let me tell you it's been very helpful for Sikh, Arab, and Muslim and other South Asian passengers who try to fly a flight.
The Sikh American experience since that fact sheet has come out has been that at airports when Sikhs have been confronted about their turban, whether they might be hiding something in their turban, whether they -- whether -- being forced to submit to a turban search, they have produced the fact sheet with the letterhead of the DOT on it, and said, "Listen, this is who I am. This is my background. And what you're asking me to do in submitting to a turban search without some sort of cause might be unlawful."
So I ask for the fact sheet that should contain information on discrimination against Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians, since September 11th, outline the common discriminatory scenarios or fact patterns involving these groups, and, finally highlight and emphasize what the law requires in those situations.
This fact sheet can go a long way in informing employers on how they can conform their corporate behavior to the requirements of the law when a situation that may possibly involve unlawful bias occurs. It can also serve as a way to proactively prevent discrimination before it occurs.
Number two, expanded mediation. It is also heartening to know and -- that the Commission intends, in its five-point plan, to expand its mediation program. As part of their training, it is critical that the Commission mediators be trained on employment discrimination and bias issues affecting Sikhs, Arabs, Muslims, and South Asians, since September 11th.
Lastly, reaching out to the Sikh American community. Sikh Americans are a relatively young community in the United States. Like many South Asians, Sikh Americans have had little or no contact with federal agencies. It is critical that the Commission find ways to reach out to Sikh Americans and other South Asians.
One way to initiate contact on the grass roots level is to create a brochure on post-September 11th employment discrimination for employees similar to other employment discrimination brochures for employees on the Department of Justice website. This brochure, like other federal agency brochures on discrimination, should then be translated into Punjabi and other South Asian languages and placed on the EEOC website.
The brochures can then be accessed by community members and distributed by community organizations to Sikh Americans and other interested persons.
Lastly, as I've said earlier, we are Americans. As Americans, all we expect is to be treated like any other American -- to live our daily lives free of terror like other Americans, to make social contributions like all Americans, to enjoy the same protection of law as all Americans, and to enjoy the same opportunities, including employment opportunities, as all Americans.
We are grateful to the Commission for the opportunity to work together with our government to further these goals by allowing us to appear before it on this panel.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Singh.
MR. MAJID: Thank you. On behalf of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, I'd like to thank the EEOC and each and every one of you for inviting us here today. We thank you for your leadership, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts and concerns with you.
I'm here to convey just a few instances of employment discrimination experienced by Muslims in America since September 11, 2001. The material I present to you today contains actual cases collected in consultation with members of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers.
What is incredibly troubling is that these few examples represent hundreds, if not thousands, of incidents in our community since September 11th. I'd like to start by asking all of us to remind ourselves that we live in a country that prides itself on justice, tolerance, and respect for the rule of law. Muslim Americans share that pride because Islam is a peaceful, tolerant, and monotheistic religion that shares the Abrahamic foundations of Christianity and Judaism.
Followers of Islam are found in every country in the world. There are estimated to be nearly seven million Muslims in the United States, and it has widely been reported that Islam is the fastest-growing religion both globally and in America, where it is second in followers only to Christianity.
Muslims in America comprise a diverse demographic group within a very wide range of professions and industries. They work with us. They live amongst us. They are professionals and entrepreneurs. They own businesses, and they are prominent in academia, the sciences, and medicine.
Yet Islam remains far from being truly understood by the average American. In fact, although Muslim Americans are heavily represented in well-respected professions and perform functions vital to our local and national economies, they have repeatedly been victims of prejudice and misinformation in private, public, and corporate settings.
Muslim Americans have worked hard and sacrificed much to educate themselves and their children in the hope of creating a better future for their loved ones and their communities. Due to the Islamic emphasis on knowledge and education, a large proportion of Muslims in America hold advanced degrees and work in intellectually demanding fields.
However, discrimination against Muslims in the workplace is not restricted to any one profession, and victims range from those employed in corporations and hospitals to those in the service industry such as cab drivers, restaurant and retail employees, and members of the military.
Three difficult months ago, on September 11, 2001, a horrific and immoral crime committed against our country by a cult of murdering individuals set into motion a series of unfortunate events. We have yet to see the full consequences of their actions.
From the perspective of those unfortunate Muslim Americans who have been victims of employment discrimination, their American dream has turned into a nightmare, as a result of the criminal acts of persons they have never heard of, nor had any connection to.
They have been forced from their jobs, labeled as scofflaws, and shunned from their professional communities for no perceptible reason other than the way they look, dress, speak, or worship. Similar to members of other faiths, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful, tolerant, and law-abiding citizens. In fact, these qualities are specifically espoused by the religion is Islam.
Muslim American individuals and organizations openly and vociferously condemn the horrific acts of September 11th, yet in the unfortunate fallout many Muslims now find themselves unemployed or employed in capacities and circumstances that unjustly diminish their accomplishments and professional qualifications.
Others find themselves working in hostile work environments where supervisors and colleagues who once befriended them now ridicule and harass them for their faith or for their ethnic heritage. Some Muslim Americans have received death threats from co-workers. Others have been forced to leave their jobs fearing for their personal safety.
This unjust persecution has caused many faultless innocents in America to lose their livelihoods, their careers, their homes, and, in some cases, their lives. The following are but a few specific examples of employment discrimination reported by Muslim Americans since September 11, 2001.
Shortly after September 11th, a Muslim nurse in New York City was threatened by a co-worker who vowed to do what she could do to kill Muslims. When this threat was reported to a supervisor, the Muslim woman was encouraged to take some time off. Prior to returning to work after her leave, she was informed that her duties had been modified, and that she had been transferred to a different department.
When asked why she was, in effect, being demoted, she was told by her supervisor that it was for her own safety. The co-worker who threatened her was not asked to take time off, nor were her duties changed.
A young Muslim man was questioned by a colleague why he had a screen saver showing the World Trade Center on his laptop. He responded that he had downloaded the screen saver shortly after the attacks as a memento of the city skyline that he had admired so much.
Shortly thereafter, he was summoned to his supervisor's office, asked to turn in his security clearance, keys, laptop, and all other office property, and ordered immediately to leave the office. When he asked what was happening, he was told that he was now considered a security risk and, therefore, was being terminated.
A middle age Muslim man had worked for an information technology firm. Like many Muslims, he attended a mosque for congregational prayer each Friday. As a service to the mosque, and in the hopes of creating a greater understanding of his faith, he had been distributing pamphlets with information about Islam to non-Muslims in his free time.
For purposes of convenience, he kept some of this written material secured in his office desk. A few day after the attacks on September 11th, he was told to report to the corporate security office. There he was questioned about the material recovered from his office desk and repeatedly harassed and threatened by corporate security officials who accused him of being associated with terrorism.
His explanations were met with ridicule, as were his supervisor's supporting statements about his exemplary record with the company. A short while later he was informed that he was being terminated from his position.
Each of these individuals that I have described to you has a spouse and children who depend on them for the basic necessities of life. To this day, none of them has found new employment.
As I mentioned to you earlier, these are but a few instances of blatant and insidious employment discrimination of Muslims in the United States that I am able to convey to you in the time that I have been given. Hundreds of other cases have been reported to Muslim American organizations and agencies that are responsive to the plight of these unfortunate persons.
Hundreds, and possibly thousands, more have gone unreported due to the diminished faith in our legal system by those who have been the targets of discrimination.
Though our nation has every right to defend itself, and to be secure from any threat of attack, and though our government's efforts towards these goals may be well intentioned, the harm to innocents singled-out on the basis of their faith or ethnic origin is contrary to our democratic principles. To single out members of a vibrant, diverse, peaceful, and God-fearing religion for the illegal actions of a handful of zealots undermines our nation's values and discredits our proud American heritage.
The hundreds of Muslim Americans that have been, and the several hundred more that are expected to be, detained in the ongoing dragnet search for terrorists presents an additional employment discrimination problem for Muslim Americans.
The overwhelming majority of those detained are the sole providers for their families. Often taken without notice and with no information given as to their whereabouts or condition, these detainees are unlikely to be able to keep their jobs if they do not show up for work.
What images are left in the minds of an employer when he learns why the detainee did not show up for work? Who will pay the rent and the utility bills for the families of these detainees? Who will feed their children? What are the employment prospects for these detainees when they are eventually released from detention but still bear the indelible mark of being a September 11th detainee and suspected terrorist?
The EEOC has done much to respond to employment discrimination faced by Muslims and other American minorities since September 11th, and we applaud that effort. I would like to offer a few suggestions to supplement this vital endeavor.
All efforts must be made to encourage victims of discrimination to come forward and be heard with no fear of recrimination or further victimization. Next, harassment and discrimination in the workplace must be well documented, and all victims need to be counseled about their rights under the law and referred to the appropriate legal and employment services.
There must be ongoing supervision to ensure that the needs of those who have been victimized are addressed in full and that those who discriminate are adequately punished and deterred. Employers should be required to create and maintain a workplace setting where information is readily imparted to all employees regarding the treatment of religious, ethnic, and racial diversity in the workplace.
This information must be conveyed to employees on a regular basis, in a group environment, where any misunderstandings or miscommunications can be immediately addressed. The definition and identification of the various forms of workplace discrimination and the rights and remedies available for persons victimized by employers or co-workers should be made clear to all employees.
Special attention must be given to the forms of discrimination that have become all too common in light of the media's continued and narrow focus on the tragedy of September 11th and its aftermath.
Finally, particular attention must be given to the reality that adverse employment action continues to be taken against individuals who have been fully cleared of any wrongdoing by an overinclusive law enforcement effort.
The EEOC must redouble its efforts to work with employers and at all levels of law enforcement to develop procedures to ensure that any person who is questioned in connection with the September 11th investigation is not subject to adverse employment action, and that the subject's clearance or exoneration by law enforcement is made public to all those who may be aware of the investigation.
Tolerance for all religions, ethnicities, and races must be stressed, and employers must be held to the highest levels of compliance by strict agency oversight. Given the current atmosphere, employers of Muslims should be provided incentives to establish sensitivity training for management and all employees and to remain vigilant against harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
Special efforts must be made to regain the trust of the Muslim American community, making it clear that cases of discrimination against them will be addressed quickly, fairly, and justly. Due to Muslim religious obligations of prayer at prescribed times during the day, congregational prayers on Fridays, specific personal requirements of Muslims, such as Muslim females to elect to head covering, adjustment in the work day during the holy month of Ramadan, and observance of Muslim holidays, particular attention and sensitivity must be given to religious accommodations required by Muslims in the workplace.
Finally, corporations should be made aware that in the global economy treatment of any one particular group in a negative manner will be reflected in the company's bottom line. When Muslims are discriminated against or marginalized in the United States, news of these events reported by the media reaches the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and other parts of the Muslim world.
This information serves not only to diminish the reputation and sales of that company, but also negatively affects the image and economy of our nation and the reputation of our leaders overseas. The fact that we have been invited here today indicates that it is hoped that these vital issues can be addressed and resolved.
We are optimistic that the employment discrimination faced by Muslim Americans in the backlash following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, can be corrected with appropriate attention and care. This hearing is an important step toward a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in the American workplace and the vital role that we play in our nation's workforce and economy.
Thank you again for your leadership, and we look forward to a long and productive relationship with the EEOC.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very, very much, Mr. Majid.
All of you have given us a lot of good specific suggestions that we can build upon and use to strengthen and improve on our very fine start, thanks to the work that we've been doing in consultation with you. And we greatly appreciate it.
We just have a few followup questions, and let me now turn to the Vice Chair Igasaki for just a couple of followups.
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: Thank you. I do want to thank all of you for this input. It's very helpful and useful to us. And specifically, I want to thank ADC, the Sikh Coalition, for helping me a lot in terms of the outreach I've been doing over the last several months.
One of the things, Mr. Majid, that you raised that I'm very concerned about -- and both to you and to the rest of you if you have thoughts on this -- to what degree has the government's investigations post-9/11 and what people are hearing about the law and changes and things of that nature, to what degree is this chilling people in the community from coming forward?
As you've heard, we are getting a relatively few number of complaints given the widespread nature of the discrimination we're hearing about. How big of a problem is this? I've heard about it from several sources, but I'd appreciate your overviews.
MR. MAJID: Thank you, Mr. Igasaki. It's an interesting question, and I think the answer is I can't give you any one answer. I can only tell you from my experience, and I'll give you one more example that I didn't include in my address to you. A young Muslim man had been working for a financial services company, and he was laid off shortly before September 11th.
However, during the time that he worked for that company, he had been sent to Boston on business. He was questioned after the attacks by federal agents as to why he was in Boston before the attacks. When he responded that he was there on business from his former employer, they went back to the former employer and repeatedly questioned a number of his supervisors and colleagues.
Since that time, he has been unable to obtain a favorable reference from that employer. And as you can see, any person could argue, well, this really has nothing to do with the criminal investigation. He wasn't employed before September 11th with them. They just needed to verify where he was, why he was in Boston, so it has nothing to do with that.
But when you look at it in the totality of the circumstances, it really does play a major role, because the fact that someone is questioned by federal agents, and the fact that they are labeled as someone who has been questioned by federal agents in relation to one of the greatest domestic tragedies our nation has ever been affected by, plants a shadow of suspicion on that person. And no amount of explanation is going to remove that shadow.
So that's why we're calling for public exoneration. If people are going to be questioned, and the public is aware of it, it's only right that the government should make it public that this person had nothing to do with this, that this person was cooperative and helpful, and provided vital information to our nation in its attempt to feel secure.
Now, the second part of your question was, why are they reluctant to come forward? And they're reluctant because the EEOC is a government entity, so here they are, and I think it's ironic, as a former law enforcement official, that law enforcement is targeting people that are the very community whose help they need to feel secure.
So you cannot make people open up to you by ostracizing them first. So I think that from a tactical and strategic point of view, the whole realm of law enforcement and the interface with the public needs to be rethought because it's -- once the damage is done, it's too late.
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: Dr. Asali?
DR. ASALI: Yes. We are quite concerned about this issue, and I would like to take an opportunity of this -- this hearing to just state a couple of things. One is that we are in very close contact with the Justice Department and the Office of Naturalization and Immigration, and we are always in pursuit of information which seems to be the hardest thing to get.
We have an opaque wall that we cannot seem to penetrate that we have, in fact, decided to sue for information, which we have done. With the ACLU and other people, we have filed for information. So the numbers we have now is maybe around 560 people are under detention, and the majority of them are -- are being held in charges that are related to their immigration status, visa status, rather than, you know, criminal investigation that's related to the issue at hand.
I do want to say something that has become clear to us -- information, solid information, by -- by people who are working for the government, the various agencies, is that the hijackers had been instructed by their people from Afghanistan with documents that have been -- since been made available to the -- to the -- to various agencies, not to communicate, not to trust the Arab American/Muslim American community because it is suspect and has gone native.
So the government is quite aware that the Arab American community here and the people who live here are not only, you know, not part of the scheme of things, they are, you know, considered to be totally unreliable. So to have this very particular group pay the price from both sides is sometimes hard to bear.
MR. ABINADER: Vice Chair, I'd like to suggest just one of the problems is that -- the amount of mixed signals that have come from the Federal Government. You can't, on the one hand, have the Commission asking for reporting on employment discrimination, and on the other hand have the Attorney General say that, "If you have overstayed your visa by one day we're going to deport you," to communities where immigration issues like visa overstays are common.
And the dragnet of 5,000 on the basis purely of ethnicity or the fact that they came to this country since January 1st, and then on the other hand the FBI and the Department of Justice comes to our community and says, "Help us out. You know, let's establish our outlines."
Our people need, as Ziad said, very clear messages. One of the first questions they came up with in the detainee issue was, "Is the INS going to be there?" People want to do the interviews. They want to be helpful, but they don't want to be intimidated.
And so I think the Commission is operating kind of like with one arm tied behind your back because other agencies in the government are creating a cloud around how much the people -- how much comfort level there is with cooperating with the Federal Government. Our people definitely want to, but there really is, as Ziad said, this opaque wall in terms of trying to get information and establishing a comfort level in dealing with the agencies.
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: I see. The one thing I was going to mention is that it seems like we have a hard time getting our hands on cases that we can really move with. This is always true for us. But I'm particularly concerned about this recruiter issue I think Mr. Singh had raised -- I think every one of you have raised it in some way.
That a lot of people are applying for jobs and having a hard time getting through the door. It's very hard for us to make cases in those situations. So both in terms of the idea about a fact sheet, I would think maybe even the guidance that would help -- have more of the hypotheticals out there to give people an idea of -- both our people and external folks to know about what the rules are might be helpful.
The other thing is in terms of charges. Two -- I mentioned it in my remarks, two things -- tools that we use, and I would ask just briefly, because I think I'm about out of time here, that if each of you -- if your organizations would be willing to cooperate with -- in addition, I know we've gotten a lot of referrals.
But also, to work with us in fighting -- I know the Chair has made very clear that we're not accepting in this public forum specific information. But in our enforcement work, we very definitely are interested in specific information. And if you'd be willing to work with us in terms of giving facts that we can investigate, and also whether your organizations might consider, if they are appropriate cases, to be third party complainants, where you actually might be the complaining entity in an investigation.
Any help you can give us in that regard I think would be very useful to our enforcement effort.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you for the offer.
MR. MAJID: I think that's an excellent idea, and I think another solution might be to get more minority recruiters in there.
DR. ASALI: We, of course, at the ADC have been I think completely forthcoming with the information available to us, the complaints. We give you the details, the employers' names, the employee names, the whole thing, and we are very gratified with the kind of response that we have been getting in followup from your offices.
And the answer to your other question is, yes, we would be highly amenable to -- to act as actively a third party in pursuing, you know, the -- whatever action is needed to clear those cases.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Vice Chair Igasaki.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you very much to all of the panelists.
I have two areas of questioning that I just would like to delve into, and one of them deals with a theme that I think all of you touched upon, and that is the theme -- and it's something that we think about a lot here, and that is the theme to encourage victims of discrimination to come forward and file charges with our agency.
And in my talks with the community around the country, there are -- have been raised to me concerns, again, about coming to a federal office building and filing a charge in a federal -- with a federal agency, a process which is unfamiliar to most and particularly unfamiliar to many members in your community.
In the past, the EEOC has done off-sites. Basically, that is going out into a community organization and taking charges at a specific time, inviting the community to come into a particular center and taking charges there, in a sense taking the EEOC out into the community rather than demanding the community to come into the federal building.
What I want to know -- if you think that that is a good or appropriate strategy in this instance, and should we make that as a matter of policy in particular districts with large communities? And maybe if you can give us some guidance so that this occurs rather than haphazardly but in a strategic way that can really react to what I perceive is a problem with respect to responding.
DR. ASALI: Yes. This question, if I may, did come up in our meeting with Chair Dominguez, and it is -- it is one of serious practical implication here. There are lots of people who are quite hesitant to come in touch with the government at any level of contact. And we, on the other hand, do receive lots of complaints directed to ourselves because we probably are somewhat more trusted by those complainers.
What we had explored, if at all possible, is to find a mechanism where our people -- and we have chapters across the nation and membership across the nation -- could serve in a coordinated capacity with EEOC officials, and, you know, in translation, or, you know, actually physically, you know, taking these people somewhere or -- we are quite open to this prospect, and we feel strongly that this would encourage people to participate and complain and bring, you know, complaints that they otherwise would have been too intimidated to bring to any government agency. So we are quite open for that.
MR. MAJID: If I might add, I think that a proper venue would be the large mosques, because most of the information that I've gotten, most of the people that I've tried to contact, may have done it through the mosque. The mosque is not only a place of worship, but it really is the center of the Muslim community.
And people come there to really seek shelter from issues like this, and communicate with each other, and try to get some reassurance about what direction they should take. And I think that if you contact some of the larger Muslim organizations, and you work with some of the larger mosques, you'll find that that's going to be a very beneficial relationship to you.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I would hope that that -- that coming out of this meeting, that this sort of strategy may actually be one way in which we can move forward and direct our district offices to try to think through with the community in that area.
Let me move on to a second issue, and that is the issue of outreach. And we talk a lot about outreach, and I think that the agency has done a number of very significant things with respect to translating sort of know your rights brochures and -- and so on and so forth.
I guess mine is a generalized question about outreach, and whether we -- how effective you think that we're doing. Are we reaching the right people? And how can we better be -- how can we be more strategic with respect to reaching out to the communities to both educate them about their rights and encourage them to consider filing charges if they feel they have been victimized?
MR. SINGH: If I can just -- I think one second --
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Excuse me. No, Dr. Asali needs to leave. I just wanted to --
MR. SINGH: Oh, sure. Of course.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: -- acknowledge that, and thank you so much for coming.
DR. ASALI: Thank you very, very much.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you. Appreciate your --
DR. ASALI: We'll talk about that. Thank you very, very much, all of you.
MR. SINGH: With regard to the Sikh community and most South Asian communities, the EEOC, to be honest, doesn't have a presence. That's the stark truth. That's not necessarily a negative reflection on the EEOC or on willingness to work with the communities. But our communities haven't stepped up as much as we need to as well.
So Commissioner Miller's suggestions with regard to outreach, and specifically going into the community centers, explaining what the EEOC does, distributing the information, would make a huge difference.
With regard to the Sikh community, the Commission has a great opportunity because the community is very small. Just going one time, you know, Commissioner Igasaki or Chair Dominguez or Commissioner Miller, or anybody else from the EEOC, one time will sort of reverberate throughout the community.
And I can say the last -- this past Sunday the Associate Director of the Community Relations Service for the DOJ came to one of our Sikh places of worship in Potomac, Maryland, and it really made a big difference, and he didn't do more than speak for perhaps 15 minutes. But it let the community know in a resounding way that that agency was there for them.
So the outreach is important to have the education. And as long as we have the information, we can inform people on how to file charges. So it's a great idea and it's -- I'm happy it was raised.
MR. MAJID: I think another strategy would -- might be to emulate the ethnic marketing done by marketers, targeting these ethnic communities through cable television and the stations that they watch very frequently with commercials in their languages, depicting people who they can associate themselves with in the commercials.
MR. ABINADER: There also you will find a number of Arab American newspapers, both in English and Arabic, and bilingual, all through the United States, and at least a dozen radio stations where you can play stories. I think basically the regional office could say, "Hey, here's a press release. We'd like to come and talk to you."
They could get on talk shows. They could have interviews that would then be placed -- could have sample forms on how to file it. The bilingual brochures that you have could all be used that way. There are lots of ways to reach out to the community.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much. Oh, I'm sorry.
MR. SINGH: I had actually one last thing. What the Civil Rights Division at the DOJ did a great job with was, one, calling the communities in -- the Arab community, the Muslim American community, the Sikh community, and then sort of asked us to forward them the information, and then has done a good job of publicizing that -- what is now seven indictments for hate crimes.
So if I can underscore the importance of getting those important public cases, their first few cases, I think it will do a great deal to sort of destroy the sphere of an agency in this case, because now you're giving them a tangible example of the agency taking action. No, no, they're on our side. This is all they do, and they're going to help us. So example cases are critical for the Arab community and all of the communities.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
I have one -- one question, and that has -- you've been working so closely with the public service and the administration, and I wonder to what extent have you been involved in working with the employer community.
Specifically, you mentioned the importance of briefing recruiters and getting more recruiters. I just wonder whether you've had as much success in establishing comparable liaisons with the employer community as you have, obviously, with the Federal Government?
MR. ABINADER: We've had difficulty, because there's this kind of guilt by association. If we admit there's a problem, then we have to do something about it. We have gone to employers, particularly in the large metropolitan areas of New Jersey where we have Arab American populations, in Detroit and Chicago, and Cleveland, Ohio, I think were four of the places where we actually have gone to places because of the large concentrations of Arab American workers on the floor or as service employees or sales associates, or whatever they want to -- whatever the business happens to be.
And there has been a real reaction against telling them what their job is, fearing that if they admit that they have a problem that, therefore, they're going to be prosecuted, or that somehow they're going to be made liable.
And so it's been very difficult to get employees, even Arab American employees, employers, to undertake a proactive kind of program because of fear of somehow admitting that, therefore, they are culpable.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Interesting. Any experiences on your end?
MR. MAJID: It's been difficult, because the victims themselves are very reluctant to engage the employers when it comes to any -- any type of legal negotiations or anything even resembling legal negotiations. The people who are being victimized have so little experience. Most of the times they don't even know they have been victimized, so they don't know who -- who to turn to or what to do.
It just comes up in conversation, "Oh, I lost my job." And you really need to dig to find out what happened. And at that point, if you talk to somebody and say, "Well, you know, you have rights. Have you tried calling this organization, or the EEOC? Or have you spoken with an attorney?" They say, "Well, you know, what's an attorney going to do? It's just -- anybody that's going to help me is just going to charge me money, you know, that I don't have," and they really don't know what this whole process entails.
They don't know that there's an organization there that represents them free of charge, and they don't know -- a lot of them have a sense of pride also. You have to understand this ethnic sort of self-reliance. These are people that have never been on government assistance of any kind, or they've never had to rely on any type of government entity to help them.
MR. ABINADER: The issue we've had is security clearances, in that people who are up for them, and all of a sudden the application disappears or it gets put off another six months. They are terrified, because they're federal employees, to bring any kind of complaint.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: I see.
MR. ABINADER: We have over a half dozen of those, and they will not speak out against their -- against their departments.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: I would think the Business Roundtable, The Conference Board, some of the major associations that are made up of CEOs would be a very valuable forum for you to go to and express your concerns and share some of this information as well.
MR. MAJID: And some people are even concerned about how this might affect future employment. So they feel, well, you know, I lost my job, it's fine, I'll just find another job. If I make a big deal about this, I'll never get another job. So they're very reluctant to take any steps.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Well, we truly thank you very, very much. Mr. AbiNader, please send our regards to your Chairman, George Salem, and I bumped into him a couple of times at the White House. I know he has been very, very involved in providing guidance and leadership there, and appreciate all you're doing at the national level along with our other fellow organizations. Thank you so much.
MR. ABINADER: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Mr. Singh, I'm impressed you read my five-point plan.
We really appreciate your very thoughtful -- you put a lot of time and effort into some very specific suggestions, and we will take those to heart. We're very grateful for that.
MR. SINGH: Thank you, Chair.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Similarly, Mr. Majid, I really appreciate the specificity, the overview as well as the specifics, and hopefully we'll have some followups and be able to report back on a regular basis as to how well we are carrying out and strengthening these efforts.
So thank you all for coming.
MR. MAJID: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay. Let me now welcome our second panel. We have the employer responses and best practices that will be shared with us. Betsy Bosak from TRW Space and Electronics, and Thomas Korber, Astra-Zenica Pharmaceuticals. Thank you both for being with us today.
Ms. Bosak, I know you have a plane to catch, so you are under some time constraints.
So if you don't mind, we'll let her go first.
MR. KORBER: That's great.
MS. BOSAK: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Appreciate that. Welcome again.
MS. BOSAK: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me here to speak before the Commission regarding the steps that TRW took in the wake of September 11th. TRW has a long history of being a progressive employer. We're very proud of it. For us, it's a key part of our strategy to recruit and retain some of the best employees possible to successfully accomplish our corporation's mission.
Our commitment to diversity is also well established, and luckily, because it was so well in place, we were able to utilize many of our employee network groups in the actions that we took in the wake of September 11th.
We've used our network groups to identify such things as the accommodations that are necessary in the workplace, and also to host what we refer to as lunch and learn sessions to educate people regarding the religious values that many of us bring given the diversity that we all have in today's workplace.
As we all know, shortly after the terrorist attacks, there were many, shall we say, acts of discrimination, harassment, and even outright violence against Muslim and Sikh employees around the country. One thing that we quite quickly did is placed calls directly into many of our Muslim employees, into our Sikh employees, to remind them of our commitment to a harassment-free workplace, and to ask them to share that with other Muslim and Sikh employees throughout the company and to let us know if there was anything that was going on that we needed to take immediate action with reference to.
I am proud to say that so far today we have not at TRW had any problems, but I would like to share with you many of the other proactive steps that we took in the course of the following weeks and even currently today.
At the very beginning, many corporations, CEOs, and senior management put out announcements of their shall we say sympathy, concerns, and also to reinforce the commitment to diversity in our workplace. TRW was one of those. Our CEO, Dave Cody, almost immediately put out a communication saying, "Our thoughts are with the victims of September 11th terrorist attacks and their loved ones. This is a most difficult time, but the courage of those who are helping to rescue -- helping in the rescue efforts, as well as the outpouring of sympathy and the support received from people throughout the country, reminds us that the human spirit is alive and well. Together we can overcome this obstacle."
We also put out announcements, again from other parts of our senior management, regarding our commitment to a harassment-free workplace, and expressing the importance of a highly diverse workforce and ensuring, again, TRW's success, because it is through acts of diversity that we are able to be successful by utilizing a highly diverse workforce with a broad range of experiences and a broad range of input.
We also took a number of steps that would allow to get employees involved in addressing these issues. We created a TRW website that was available across the corporation called "TRW Unity." That website was designed to post important information, both at a corporate nation -- at a corporate level and at a national level. It listed resources and numerous volunteer opportunities and charities that people could get involved in.
It also had employees' personal stories regarding September 11th. And it also referenced many valuable information from those of us -- those on the first panel, such as the Arab American Institute, and the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. We link directly into those websites to help enhance people's understanding of the Muslim community and the Arab community's beliefs and to help dispel many of the myths that were out there.
Another thing that we did that was quite popular is we hosted an employee panel, and this panel consisted of employees who are of the Islamic, the Sikh, the Hindu, and the Buddhist religion. This panel was hosted in Redondo Beach, California, but we audio-conferenced it into our sites in Rancho Carmel, California; Washington, D.C., Warner Robbins, Georgia; Dayton, Ohio; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and White Sands, New Mexico. And we also videotaped it.
And the intent of this panel was basically to, again, raise awareness regarding the values, the beliefs, and customs of each of these religious groups, and also to provide valuable information so employees could better assess what they were hearing in the media, as we understood there was much confusion about what jihad was, was this really a jihad, and how does this align with the fundamental beliefs within the Islamic faith?
And this panel was very successful for us in doing it, and it allowed us to get it -- information of this nature out to many employees across the country.
As a follow up, we knew that many employees were distressed. There was high levels of concern about this, and so we held employee panels hosted by our employee assistance organization. And this was designed to help alleviate some of the employee stress and trauma regarding this tragedy.
Like many people throughout the country, we held a moment of silence and tried to -- to the best of our ability -- pay tribute and also prayer to those who had lost their lives on September 11th. We posted flags at the entrances of all of our buildings to show our commitment to the country and our willingness to support in all ways those actions necessary to return this country to the greatness that we all knew.
Physical security for many of us became an increased concern. We, as a government contractor, were well aware that we wanted to take actions that would make our employees feel safer in the workplace. And so we reduced vehicular access into the building. We increased security patrols. We increased searches. Again, like many of us, be it from the airports and be it within buildings like this, we felt security was pivotal.
And then, lastly, with the recent issues around anthrax, we decided we needed to take other actions, and as such we communicated with employees to help enhance their knowledge regarding suspicious mail and packages, what they should do if they felt that they received one, be it at home or in the workplace.
We also educated them regarding the appropriate steps that they should take if they came in contact with a biohazard. And, lastly, we obviously spent a lot of time educating our mailroom personnel regarding steps that they should take to, again, enhance their security given today's threats.
People wanted to also do something themselves. There was such a great need to feel that we -- that all of us needed to help, and, again, we wanted to provide opportunity for people to do this, and the corporation also felt such a need.
To date, I'm proud to say that we've raised over a million dollars directly for the Red Cross Fund and for the September 11th Fund. Those monies have come both from the corporation and from our employees directly. The corporation has donated well in excess of $400,000. A couple of our senior managers themselves have put up $10,000 designed for employee matching. We also established another matching of $200,000 to enhance employee contributions to the Red Cross.
Some of the stories that came forth were very touching. There was one of a family who says that they are a middle class family and had recently received that IRS refund that all of us were looking forward to and had planned to spend. And their refunds were $600.
When it appeared shortly in the wake of September 11th, they said that they knew their priorities had changed, that what they as a family decided that they would do is donate that money to those who had been impacted by September 11th, and then their three young children also went into their piggybanks and brought forth extra monies. And so the letter came forth that says, "This is a contribution from all of us and from our wonderful children."
Besides that, there were some other touching stories. We established some means by which employees could access their vacation and turn their vacation hours into money that they would contribute, again, into the Red Cross and the September 11 Fund. And the corporation matched that to the tune of another $200,000. And that was a true tribute to people's willingness to take extraordinary steps in wake of this.
We held raffles for such things as HEROES, which is a fund that assists widows and children of law enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty. We held bake sales. We held blood drives and many more steps, again, to allow employees to take those steps that they felt they could to help others.
As you can see, we took a number of steps that we're very proud of. We felt that they were timely, that they were designed to address employee concerns and fears in light of the attack of September 11th. Our response has been noteworthy not only in the support of our employees but in the money raised for the victims and for the children of the disaster.
In conclusion, I'd like to quote again our CEO, who in another one of our corporate-wide webcasts said the following, "This attack on America and on the civilized world will change us, but we will become stronger. All of us can help. We can help by not living in fear, by recognizing the civilized world will not tolerate these outrages, by supporting our governments, and particularly the United States Government, as we work to prevent these atrocities."
We at TRW are committed to support you and the rest of the government in every way that we can, and to continue to ensure our workplace at TRW is free of harassment and discrimination, and, as such, to continue to be an employer that attracts and values a highly diverse workforce and, again, as I've said, to help us be successful in our mission.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Ms. Bosak. Appreciate your remarks.
MR. KORBER: Good afternoon. This afternoon I testify before you as a representative of the Society for Human Resource Management as well as Astra-Zenica, an international research-based pharmaceutical company in Wilmington, Delaware.
Astra-Zenica is the result of a merger that was consummated in April 1999, and since that merger we set out with a very specific vision to become what we call an employer of choice. On September 11th, we were clearly faced with the biggest challenge to that vision, and we've responded accordingly.
Like so many Americans, I was first dumbfounded, then horrified, at the -- as the September 11th incident began to unfold. As an organization, Astra-Zenica has many employees who have been directly impacted by the tragedy, including contractors with offices and houses in ground zero. A number of our New York area sales representatives were directly impacted, and many of our employees across the country have lost friends and family members, and I have personally had loss as well.
The testimony that I offer today is really just one employer's response to September 11th and the effect of that response on all of our employees, including Arab, Muslim, and South Asian employees. Our first visible response to employees was provided some time after 10:00 a.m. in an urgent message sent by our President and Chief Executive Officer to all employees acknowledging, and in many cases actually informing, employees of the tragic incidents that had taken place in New York City and Washington, D.C.
This message clearly outlined the priority of concern for the safety of our employees and contractors and for the well being of their families. While a crisis management team worked diligently to ascertain the full scope of the situation, preliminary steps were taken to ensure the safety of all Astra-Zenica employees, and some of the early measures included closing the offices and allowing all non-essential personnel to go home, advising all employees to avoid unnecessary travel, and to take the appropriate actions, wherever they had been stranded, to find safety in that moment, organizing communications centers to keep employees informed of all of the latest developments as we knew there would be many, setting up dedicated toll-free phone lines for receiving calls from anybody from anywhere in the country where they were stranded, where they may be able to call with additional questions, concerns, or any additional assistance they may want.
We also published these numbers to the families of the employees, so that the employment family, if you will, was expanded that day. We also encouraged employees to contact their families to assure them of their safety and to monitor the local news information relative to school closings or child care impact or any of the other family stuff that might happen on a short-term notice for employees that day. And we installed televisions for all locations for those who preferred to actually stay at the office to experience the unfolding of the information.
We learned that there were many employees who had nobody to go home to, and how tragic it would be for those folks who need to process in a community setting the unfolding of the tragic events. So we set up what I called community rooms in all of our major locations to allow folks to be with people if that's what they chose to do.
In addition, we diligently set out to secure housing for many of the employees who were stranded across the country due to travel itineraries. Our primary focus on September 11th was to ensure a full accounting of the location and safety of all of our employees. There are approximately 5,000 of our employees out of town or traveling that day, including a global marketing meeting in midtown Manhattan, and many international employees and their families on holiday in New York City.
Our next priority was to establish a global support network for employees and families who were stranded away from home, many out of their countries of origin. Individuals were stranded across the entire United States as well as from China to Sweden. We were also mobilizing efforts to provide numerous mechanisms of support to those employees who were in our offices when they had been hearing of the events.
As more information about the terrorist attacks unfolded, many individuals experienced a prolonged reaction to the catastrophic events. Some reactions were subtle, but others, quite frankly, such as anger, could have played out in a much more overt manner. As an organization, we put this issue right on the table at the very beginning for all employees to understand.
We made it very clear to all employees that when incidents such as these occur it is natural perhaps to consider retaliation or taking some action against those groups that are perceived as the aggressor. Managers were reminded and equipped with the appropriate tools and information to caution their employees against making any stereotypic assumptions or comments and to discourage employees from engaging in any negative behavior against colleagues based on their ethnic or religious backgrounds.
All employees were clearly informed that Astra-Zenica will stand by its anti-harassment policy and will not tolerate any violation of its provisions. Employees were instructed to report any observation or experience of inappropriate behavior to their managers and to their human resource business partners immediately.
Employees were then referred to additional information on our anti-harassment policy on our HR policies website.
As an organization, we have been very deliberate in our communication, education, and support to all employees, and we continue to ensure that all employees adhere to our expectations associated with creating and enabling a respectful workplace.
Employees were encouraged to attend and participate in support sessions conducted by other employees, human resource professionals, as well as our employee assistance providers, and these sessions were provided for all locations throughout the day for a period of several weeks, again, to allow for that longer term processing for many folks with the grief.
After very careful consideration, we actually decided to not specifically target training and awareness related to Muslim or Arab or South Asian cultures. Employees instead were referred to and invited to seek reference materials and other information at their choosing. We focused more on continuing to reinforce the message in support of a more broad definition of diversity.
We did not feel it was appropriate to profile one group of individuals over another in a knee-jerk response to social reactions that might be taking place. However, we were very explicit in our communications with managers and employees that we have zero tolerance for harassment and discrimination on any basis relative to ethnic or religious affiliation.
Now, another less traditional form of harassment for which we needed to be vigilant was more specific to our business model where since we are a global team-based business, this is frequently requiring global work teams to come together to resolve business problems.
As might be expected, with the heightened anxiety around travel, employees based in the U.S. were feeling pressure from their colleagues in other parts of the globe to kind of just get over it, hop on a plane, get on with business. You know, this happens in other parts of the world all the time. You guys are spoiled, you're kind of complacent about this, so get over it.
That was the sentiment on the other side of the globe towards the U.S. employees, if you will. As leaders in the U.S. business, we wanted to make it very clear, and we did make it very clear to employees, that we would support them in their concerns for travel, particularly around international travel which seemed to have heightened the anxiety for family members.
We have a number of instances where children would cry when they heard that mom had to go take an international trip because, you know, mom was going to get bombed and blow up in the sky. So we wanted to be very clear for the families of the employees that it was not, at this point anyway, a business requirement to travel, but, rather, we enabled alternative means for folks to accomplish their team-based work. And we continued to support these policies through investments in technology-enabled alternatives.
Another area of potential concern was for our employees with military obligations. Given the likely nature of prolonged military deployment of our employees, some of our employees, we needed to ensure that all mangers were building contingency plans that would then enable the employees to go on their military leave without concern for the work commitments, the impact on pay, what are the benefits, what support will my family have while I'm out of town, out of country, etcetera.
We have one example of a manufacturing unit in Westborough, Massachusetts, where seven members of one department were deployed together into a military unit. So that manager has business pressures.
But how do we make sure that we educate the managers about setting up work contingency plans that are independent of supporting the employee's need to be deployed to active duty and the needs that their family has, and that it's not about managing the productivity of those employees who can't be there. It's really separating the other business priority from the people business priority.
In addition to ensuring the policies and procedures were up to date, dedicated resources have also been assigned to support these military deployed employees. A reserve component support group and reserve component information meetings were established to provide maximum support to employees and their families during this time.
It's amazing what the employees might know by way of company-provided information or materials that they sometimes or often forget to give to their family members. So if there's, God forbid, a power of attorney or a will issue or survivor's benefits issues, the employee took all of that information in their head off-site, and they left the family without the support.
So we've created a dedicated network where we talk to the family of the employees almost instead of, if you will, talking to the employee around these issues, and so that the family can own this collectively.
We still support these meetings, but now the meetings are set up by reservists and members of the families. They are not company-driven any longer. We now transitioned the ownership, but we support the infrastructures to enable those meetings to be productive and informative.
Looking back, we are able to identify key success factors in our response to the tragedy that really helped to prevent the inappropriate conduct in the workplace, and these included recognizing, first, that the events of the morning of September 11th were, in fact, significant enough to likely have a long-term impact on the individuals within the organization.
We then provided an immediate and clear response to all employees, and we ensured a clear mechanism and processes for crisis management. As I mentioned to some folks earlier today, the key for us was knowing when to recognize that a crisis was among us, that it wasn't just an event but, rather, this was something of a magnitude worthy of significant investment of leadership time.
We also leveraged the strong linkage between human resources and the business leaders, and we acknowledged that there were likely going to be long-term effects. It was not an event of September 11th. September 11th was the trigger for many events that would follow.
And how were we going to allow employees to grieve that experience, allow managers to build a flexible leadership around ensuring that there is the sensitivity around whatever might be business as usual some day, that it wasn't about let's get back to work.
We very publicly told all of our leaders -- we pulled 200 leaders, the top 200 leaders into an auditorium and essentially gave them the message of employee -- accounting for the employees, employee safety, how are the families doing, what do they need, what are the families needing for the employees that are locked overseas, can't get home, etcetera.
And, oh, by the way, you know, when the manager in the back of the auditorium raised his hand saying, "Well, you know, this is going to really hit productivity," the CEO stood up and said, "What have you not understood? This isn't about productivity. This is about ensuring the safety."
Another question came up from -- "Well, what do we do about those international employees? They're really not ours, but, you know, they're kind of -- they're starting to call our hotlines, too." And the CEO's response was, "For those of you who are not from large families, let me try to help you think like a large family. We have a lot of empty beds in the house tonight. Anybody is welcome. You have to think family."
And so that was kind of the value, if you will, that permeated. Those 200 top leaders then were given the information kits to cascade the appropriate next message to their teams, so that we had that continuity of messaging.
As we go forward, as an organization we do so much more confidently knowing that the events of September 11th have actually helped further strengthen us as an organization. This experience has provided the leadership of Astra-Zenica with the opportunity to demonstrate beyond its programs and policies, but more through its compassionate and genuine concern for employees, what it actually takes to be an employer of choice.
It's difficult in today's forum to articulate all that's been done and all that continues to be done to ensure the physical, emotional, and professional security of all of our employees. However, feedback from our employees from across the organization indicates that we are actually perhaps more unique than we realized in how we demonstrate the value for our employees.
As a representative of industry, as well as the human resource profession, I see a wonderful opportunity before us to continue to influence the business culture in support of employees and the continuing challenge of balancing the person and the professional that shows up to work each day.
The events of September 11th were catalytic, a terrific wakeup call for all of us, including the leaders in the business community. I have seen the ugly side of our community. We've heard examples of the ugly side of our community, where business leaders have not acted responsibly.
I have also been very fortunate to have personally experienced the joy, appreciation, and the relief that employees feel when they know that their employer and their leaders in the employment environment put the needs of the employees and their families at the top of the list of business priorities.
As an organization, Astra-Zenica is proud of the recognition we have been receiving in our response to the events of September 11th. As a human resources professional, I'm very proud to have been able to contribute to this experience, and I'm hopeful, though, that the discussions today really will help to support and provide the momentum needed through the catalytic events that will provide tangible improvement to all employees in all industries, because I know that's not the case.
And I thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before you today. I hope the testimony has been helpful, and I would like to say if there's anything that we can do to continue to help the work of your Commission, whether it be through Society of Human Resource Management as an organization, Astra-Zenica as an employer, or even myself as a leader in the community, we would be more than happy to be part of that effort.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Mr. Korber. Your testimony has been very helpful, as has Ms. Bosak's.
We have a couple of questions we wanted to pose.
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: Yes. I have been in my time at EEOC very deeply impressed by the work of the human resources profession. I think both of your testimonies here today explain why I feel that way. What you've done is impressive, and, of course, SHRM has been a long-standing supporter of our work here, and I appreciate that.
One of the most obvious questions, I think, is that clearly both of your organizations took different attacks on this issue of training your employees as to the difference between different groups. And I myself am very torn by managers (inaudible) great idea that you did it, the lawyer says "oooh" --
-- and, you know, so I understand the rationale for going each way. But my question is to both of you, since you've helped taken these approaches, has there been some feedback from employees that this was the right course to take, something that you might have -- if something doesn't happen, I guess you don't really know whether you avoided something or not.
But has there been concerns, lack of information, if you don't do something, if you do, were there complaints, what about our group? Why Buddhists? Why not Zoroastrians or some other group? You know, those things do come up, so I'm just curious your feedback what's happened since you each made the choices you made.
MR. KORBER: If I could start, I think there's a multi-part answer. There's employees that might have a concern, feel that one-on-one connection of support from the leadership if you will.
MS. BOSAK: Whereas as you can tell we took a different approach. We for many years have had, as I said earlier, what we refer to as religious diversity sessions. We've had those specifically targeted on Christianity, on Buddhism, on Judaism, etcetera, and so we felt in the wake of September 11th, and, in fact, as a result of some requests we got from some Sikh employees, is that they really would like to see us do one targeted specifically on these relations.
But we did, as I said, make it broader, included Hindu and Buddhism, beside Islamic and Sikh. And the intent was specifically to help clarify a lot of the questions that people had and to dispel many of the myths. And our response was very favorable on this session, both from the panelists and also from the attendees.
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: Okay. The next question I have is you've heard from some of the panelists earlier the difficulties created in the realm of intensive government investigation. Last week my colleagues and I met with some attorneys, and it came up that some companies have felt kind of when the government approached them, asked them to do a little more than just say, "Here's the meeting."
There is some concern about being caught in between the government and potential discrimination charges. Both that and the issue of dealing with things such as detentions, when someone hasn't been convicted of a crime but maybe detained for further investigation. Has this something that either of your companies have had to deal with, and how are you dealing with it?
MS. BOSAK: I can speak personally. We have not had any employees, thank God, who have been detained. And I can say that we feel strongly that being proactive and ahead of the issues has always been the approach that we have taken and it was indicative that the responses we took in September 11 to get ahead of the concerns and to be very clear about our support of a harassment-free workplace, and, if there were any instances, that we would take immediate and appropriate action.
MR. KORBER: Similarly, we have not had any direct experience with that, and set motions forward that if we had that the employees new what channels of support they would be able to take advantage of had it taken place, or if it does. It could still happen.
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: The other thing that I think the other panel raised was the problem in terms of hiring and recruitment, that people feel that something isn't happening there. Just in terms of your organizations, or SHRM, I mean, the larger picture if you're aware of it, are you sending out a message that we are not supposed to be making that choice? And also, what's your sense of how that's occurring and if it is a problem?
MS. BOSAK: I, as a government contractor, one issue which limits our employment is always one of U.S. citizenship. And so that is a requirement for the vast majority of our jobs to get in because of the security clearances required in our work. We are still actively hiring, and we are still actively hiring a very diverse workforce. Over 55 percent of our workforce are -- excuse me, over 55 percent of our workforce are women and minorities, and so diversity is sort of the norm shall we say.
MR. KORBER: And that's not the case in my industry, so it has -- the specific Arab Muslim community has not been part of our challenge. We do a fairly good job of ensuring that the representation there is reflective of the available population. We have other pockets of concern with other groups, but it has not actually been a concern for us.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Vice Chair.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you very much for both of your comments. I'm trying to, in a sense, in my own mind bring together the two panels that we've heard thus far, the earlier panel of stories on the part of workers and sort of tragic experiences that individuals faced, and connect that up with your two examples of sort of reactions to the September 11th tragedy.
And I think -- in my mind, I think that there are -- it's sort of where the two sides come together is always where the action is. And I think that there is -- I think that these issues, both as raised by the workers and sort of the challenges faced by employers in doing the right thing, from my conversations with employers, are actually quite -- are quite complex and quite vexing to many employers.
And while neither of you may have had experiences in your individual companies, I know that some companies have, and that is, in a sense, in -- in both respecting their workers, who are either Arabs or Muslims, and in reacting to inquiries on the part of the government, on the part of FBI agents, in trying to sort of develop information in trying to understand where the role of the company is vis-a-vis sort of their own mission and vis-a-vis not running afoul of the EEOC in a sense.
And I think that that's actually, for many employers, quite a vexing problem to try to sort of thread your way through. It is somewhat a unique set of circumstances. So I put that out on the table for you to consider.
My question I guess related to that, and one of the things that I constantly try to think about, is, what's the relevance of the EEOC and our efforts to you as employers, as HR professionals? How can we, as the enforcement agency, bring value to your work and help you -- help you try to -- help you do the right thing, help you continue to do the right thing, and help you manage some of these vexing issues either whether they be supervisor to worker, whether they be worker to worker, whether they be other kinds of new issues. What are you looking to the EEOC for?
MS. BOSAK: I can respond a little bit. I think there's always value in sharing best practices as many of us know as far easier to create, and when you see some other company that has done something that looks incredibly effective, is to be able to -- to bring that into your own workplace and to share those that you have identified from not just ourselves but from other companies. That would benefit me tremendously.
MR. KORBER: I have a number of ideas that I actually wrote down when the other panelists were in their discussion. I think, first, as you're doing here today, it's about broadening the perspective of the EEOC and building the coalition outside the government agencies, to include the best practice thinkers if you will or the best practice experiences from industry and from across industry.
With that I think goes not an expectation but maybe a hope that at some point in time the EEOC will get to a point of having a marketing plan if you will that helps the organizations at large understand not just the regulatory compliance piece, because right now there's the large perception that that is the EEOC.
But what else is there that the EEOC is about? Yes, it's about the individual, the citizen, and the employer connection. But the common denominator for the success and the failure is leadership, in my view as a human resources professional. So what can the EEOC do to broaden its realm of influence around leadership? You can enact laws, but laws don't necessarily enable skills. Compliance doesn't necessarily relate to, you know, enabling an enforcement that really matters.
Folks once a year scramble for their affirmative action reporting and for their EEOC compliance, right? But then, there's the other 10 and a half months a year where you have leaders running businesses, and you have employees moving in and out of those systems. So there's a systematic opportunity, and that's what I referenced before, where this is catalytic.
There's a lot of wonderful changes we can do, whether it be government, business, communities, churches, etcetera. Life will never be the same, and it would be wonderful if what is perceived as bureaucratic agencies would never be the same, that they be --
PARTICIPANT: Not us.
MR. KORBER: Not necessarily you. Not necessarily you. But I say that to be provocative. It's a wonderful opportunity for us to really examine, why do we keep doing what we're doing? Because that's the definition of insanity, right? You keep doing what you're doing, you keep getting what you're getting.
If you want something new, let's look at new ways to do this, and that's why I encouraged, at my close, to say whatever I can do, whatever my organization can do, whatever the professional affiliations can do, we are thirsty to move our passion forward, and I know that you're thirsty to really continue to have greater impact in the work world. So there's a wonderful partnership opportunity.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Thank you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you. And we are excited about hearing that, because we share in that. We really want to broaden our partnership efforts.
And I want to go back to the question that I asked the first panel group that relates to relationships and partnerships and bridge-building with the employer community. I know that, wearing my former corporate hat, each corporation, each company has a community relations program, which has varying degrees of usages.
And I'm just curious to know what specific suggestions you might have that we can build these partnerships and coalitions, not only with the government but also with these wonderful resources that we have out there in the communities.
And to -- have you used your community relations function in this capacity? And, if so, with what degree of success?
MS. BOSAK: Well, I can speak -- as you can hear, both of us are from the human resources function, and on this issue and so many human resources will take the lead. There are professional organizations that we are all closely affiliated with. SHRM is obviously one, EEAC is another excellent resource for us, ORC is excellent, PIRA -- those are some professional organizations that I think your involvement and the involvement of others out of the Commission would be particularly valuable in terms of be it joint panels or presentations at some of the professional conferences, again with this issue of both best practices and the ability to go forth in a partnering role. Would love to see active participation in those.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Great. Thank you.
MR. KORBER: I think to add to that, an opportunity for us as a human resources body to partner with the panelist organizations that were here earlier -- and one example is, how do we help broaden the definition of diversity when, you know, human resource conferences do an awful lot about diversity workshops and a lot of that typical HR curriculum, I'll call it.
But there is an opportunity to broaden diversity in light of what we're now learning as a society, and, you know, a wonderful new curriculum could be, you know, dispelling the myths. You know, we have diversity that's been guided by the regulation, again, of how do we make sure that we're doing the right things for these groups of people in the workplace.
But how do we broaden that to say. But these groups of people are more than what you think these groups of people are. Or how do we go to that next level of education and awareness? So I think it's about partnering, kind of a cross-function if you will, the community agency with the professional agency, and how do we actually bring that together. Maybe that's part of the EEOC marketing plan, where they actually host the first one. I don't know. That's -- but to --
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: We'll take that challenge.
MR. KORBER: But to your point earlier, you know, getting on The Conference Board, it's not about screaming it on the 6:00 news from the steps of the church or the mosque or wherever. It's about standing in a professional setting with other professionals who get it. You know, leaders who go to these leadership development type places or venues are usually folks who get it and have points of influence.
So instead of saying it to the -- on the news to the mass populous that doesn't get it, say it where it actually can have the influence. So it's about shifting our focus and bringing it, you know, to where we have points of influence I think.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay. Well, thank you both very, very much. We really appreciate your contributions here this afternoon, and we're going to take you up on your offer to continue to assist us in the future. So thank you, Mr. Korber. And, Ms. Bosak, happy travels.
MS. BOSAK: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I just want to say while we're changing panels that SHRM, and Darren Zeplin in the back in particular, who is not paying attention I see --
No, but SHRM in particular has been very, very helpful in bridging that gap and creating an educated and sophisticated HR professional cadre. And I've really enjoyed that relationship with SHRM, as have my colleagues here I think. And we look forward to the continued role and influence and involvement of SHRM as an education force in helping us think through these issues. And, of course, SHRM is never shy to let us know what it thinks.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Okay. Our third and final panel this afternoon is our EEOC response, and we greatly appreciate the added work of our colleagues here at EEOC to prepare for this Commission meeting this afternoon.
Carol Miaskoff is the Assistant Legal Counsel for the Office of Legal Counsel, and she'll go first, followed by Elizabeth Thornton, Director of the Office of Field Programs, and then we'll have Jim Neely -- James Neely, Director of the Detroit District Office.
MS. MIASKOFF: Thank you, Chair. Good afternoon. Though clearly there are many, many exciting challenges awaiting us in the days ahead as our speakers just began to enumerate, today what I will talk to you about are EEOC's actions since September 11th to reaffirm our commitment to the civil rights of all working people in our role as principal enforcer of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Three days after September 11th when feelings were still raw, Chair Dominguez made a strong public statement to promote tolerance and guard against workplace discrimination. Chair Dominguez said that, "We must not allow our anger about these heinous events to be misdirected against innocent individuals because of their religion, ethnicity, or country of origin."
The Chair encouraged employers to call attention to their anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies and to do everything within their power to prevent the singling out of Middle Easterners.
To add depth to this message, the EEOC soon posted prominently on our website, in a section devoted to September 11th, a fact sheet explaining Title VII. It gave examples, I'll be at short, of employment actions that would violate Title VII, such as firing someone because he is from the Middle East or has a Middle Eastern accent or has a common Arab name, or harassing a Muslim woman about the hijab or scarf she wears to the office.
The EEOC also took this opportunity to remind people that Title VII outlaws employment discrimination because someone is perceived to be Middle Eastern or because someone associates with Arabs, for example. This would include firing someone because a supervisor thinks he is Muslim or because her spouse is Muslim.
At this time, we also created a link in our website to the Department of Labor's publication explaining the job rights of reservists.
On a different note, EEOC soon began to receive questions from employers who were updating their emergency evacuation plans after September 11th. The Office of Legal Counsel worked quickly to prepare a fact sheet advising employers of their rights to get medical or disability-related information within the framework of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The fact sheet reassures employers that the ADA will not stop them from getting and appropriately using such information for emergency plans. The fact sheet was issued on October 31st and, again, it is available on EEOC's website.
Throughout this difficult period, EEOC has been coordinating with the other principal federal civil rights agencies in the Departments of Justice and Labor to ensure that the federal response to backlash discrimination is uniform and is strong. These efforts culminated when the leaders of the three agencies issued a joint statement on November 19th.
The statement commended acts of tolerance since September 11th, but also stated that there are continuing reports of workplace harassment and discrimination against Arab, Muslim, and South Asian employees and applicants. The statement emphasized the importance of prevention and reaffirmed the government's commitment to non-discrimination in the workplace.
This statement was signed by Chair Dominguez; Director of OFCCP, Charles James, Sr.; and the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Ralph Boyd, Jr. The committment of our leaders is also reflected in the continuing efforts and the hard work of our staff to carry out the full meaning of Title VII in these challenging times.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you.
MS. THORNTON: Good afternoon, Chair Dominguez, Vice Chair Igasaki, Commissioner Miller. This afternoon I will report on EEOC's response to the September 11th backlash discrimination in the areas of enforcement and education and outreach.
First enforcement, initially, we developed an internal mechanism that allowed us to identify, and still allows us to identify, those charges where individuals allege discrimination as a result of the events of 9/11.
This includes charges based on national origin, Arab, Afghani, or Middle Eastern; and religion, Sikh or Muslim -- and Muslim. Using this tracking mechanism, we have been able to quickly identify charges alleging backlash discrimination, and we can also tell what that -- among other things, in which of our 51 field offices the charge was filed, the alleged discriminatory practice being complained about -- for example, harassment, discharge, layoff -- and the status of the charge.
As of December 6th, 2001, 166 charges have been filed as a result of backlash discrimination. Most of these charges involve the issue of discharge; 100 charges raise that issue, with harassment in second place being raised in 60 charges.
In terms of location, more backlash charges have been filed in California -- 24 -- than in any other state. And that was followed closely by Texas with 22, and then Illinois and Arizona with 12 each. Charges also have been filed against a variety of employers from airlines to restaurants to universities.
In trying to assess the extent of this backlash discrimination, the only comparison we could make to past charge data is in the area of religion, Muslim. Between September 11th and September 6th of last year, EEO received 64 charges alleging discrimination based on religion, Muslim. This year during the same time period, we received 157 charges based on religion, Muslim -- nearly two and a half times as many.
Now, in addition to the enforcement activities, field offices have conducted substantial outreach and education, to employer and workers alike, about discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and country of origin. Our field offices have sent staff to meet with employers, civil rights organizations, members of religious groups, and to attend community forums, to discuss how to prevent religious and national origin discrimination as a result of September 11th.
Let me give you a few examples. Our Cleveland office, in a cooperative venture with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, is meeting with the Muslim, Sikh, Middle East, and Arab communities to discuss backlash concerns in five Ohio cities.
Our Houston office will be meeting with an Islamic student group, and they held a town meeting in a local mosque which was attended by members from six other mosques. And at this, they handed out extensive literature.
And our San Francisco staff met with representatives from the Sikh community in Yuba City.
I am happy to add that EEOC's education effort has been a two-way street. By that, I mean that several of our offices have arranged with local Arab, Muslim, and Sikh communities to educate EEOC staff on their respective religious practices, customs, and the types of discrimination these individuals encounter in the workplace.
Similarly, our headquarters OFP staff attended training sponsored by the Department of Education, which was given by a Sikh community group. These programs enable our staff, and particularly our investigators and our attorneys, to do a better job.
Jim Neely, our Detroit District Director, will provide more specifics about the outreach programs in his district. Detroit has a long history of cooperation with the local -- long history of cooperation with the local Arab and Muslim community.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you, Ms. Thornton.
MR. NEELY: Madam Chair, Vice Chair, Commissioner Miller, good afternoon. I'm Jim Neely from the Detroit District Office. Thank you for the opportunity to allow me to talk to you this afternoon about our work with the Arab American community in the Detroit metropolitan area.
It is not a well-known fact that the Detroit metropolitan area has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the country, and our office has had a history of working with this community for the last several years.
In the Detroit office, we have an outreach program that we call our CLASS program. That stands for Community Liaison Action Support System. That is a program where we have several different committees that are charged with the responsibility of working with the various minority communities in the Detroit metropolitan area.
They are focused and charged with the responsibility, working with both the community-based organizations in each minority area and also working with the civil rights organizations that represent those communities. They are also charged with the responsibility of taking charges off-site when necessary. They are asked to attend various community-based functions and to set up information booths, if possible, or distribute literature on the laws that we enforce.
The ultimate purpose of these committees is really to establish a presence in each minority community area that we service in the metropolitan area.
In the Arab American community, we work very closely with the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, which is a well-known program in the Detroit area called ACCESS. It is the community-based umbrella organization for the Arab community in Detroit, in the metropolitan area.
We also work very closely with the Arab American -- American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, ADC. And, as a footnote, I am privileged to say that I serve on the honorary board of directors for the ADC chapter in Detroit, which is the largest chapter in -- of ADC in the country. And I am also privileged to say that I serve on the board with such other more notable members of the committee, such as a Federal Judge and the Attorney General for the State of Michigan.
When we first began working with the Arab community, we learned that there were no EEOC publications in the language of that community. So we worked very closely with ACCESS and ADC to transfer the EEO poster and the immigration rights pamphlet into Arabic for distribution within the community and to employers in the metropolitan Detroit area.
The regional attorney, Adell Repore, and I have also appeared on local radio and cable television programs in the Arab community. Adell appeared on the local radio call-in talk show program, and I appeared on one of the three major cable programs to discuss the laws that we enforce, and to give people information about how to go about contacting us.
In the next year, I'm scheduled to attend and participate on the cable programs and the other two cable TV stations in the Detroit area.
During the week of Thanksgiving, the regional attorney and several investigators from our CLASS committee also attended a community forum with the Arab community with representatives from the Department of Justice. The Arab CLASS committee is also working with the Arab American Newspaper, which is headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, which is a suburb of Detroit, to publish an article on the laws that we enforce and how to go about contacting us.
They -- we have done this previously in the Hispanic community in a paper, El Central, which is published in -- statewide in the Hispanic community, and the article was very well received. So our Arab community is -- our Arab committee is looking to duplicate that success in the Arab community.
We also have worked with ACCESS and ADC to go off-site to take charges with members of the community when they are unable to come to our offices. For example, as recently as March of this year, we went to a mosque to take charges from members of the community who allege discrimination in employment.
We also have an arrangement with ACCESS and ADC to use them for interpretive services when needed. We worked this process out in conference with representatives from OFP and a legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel.
After the September 11th tragedy, we began to see newspaper articles in the Detroit metropolitan area alleging a backlash problem in the Arab community. And as a result of this backlash problem, we decided to do three things.
The first thing we did was we met with the investigators in our office to tell them that they should be on alert for potential charges from the Arab American community alleging discrimination on the basis of national origin or harassment, and that we would prioritize those charges.
The second thing that we did was we made -- we made arrangements to go out to ACCESS, as recently as last week by the way, to interview potential charging parties and to take charges alleging harassment.
The final thing that we did was we also made contact with the local chapter of ADC to work with them on harassment issues and to also work with them on issues of discrimination as they might arise in the Arab community.
So, in conclusion, these are some of the problems that we're working on and some of the issues that we're working on with the Arab community, and we will continue to work with this community to address issues of employment discrimination.
Thank you for allowing me to talk to you.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you very much, Jim.
Let's see. Do we have any followup questions, Vice Chair?
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: Thank you.
Jim, I wanted to mention that my first contact with the Arab American community three years ago was because your office prodded me to do it. I was coming to Detroit anyway, and they said, "This is an important part of the community you've got to visit," and I did. I learned about the question of remote location intake and that sort of thing back then, so I appreciate the work that you and your team have done.
And my first question is I think more to Liz, because it's clear -- it's not just the Arab American community. I think the Detroit office has done a good job at doing the outreach and making sure it's not just to one community at a time. One, I mean, have our other offices been encouraged to consider remote location intakes? Is that desirable from your point of view?
And also, is this idea of creating these community liaison committees -- I know that the offices deal with this somewhat differently -- but are all of the other offices being encouraged to do that sort of outreach as well, or maintaining that kind of ongoing outreach?
MS. THORNTON: To answer your question very succinctly, yes. We called remote locations expanded presence. And we've been doing expanded presence for a number of years. Recently, in the Muslim community, in the Arab community, but more generally in the Hispanic community, the underserved communities as routinely.
So it's -- it's something that we can obviously and very clearly do more of, but it is something that all of our field offices at this point in time participate in.
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: Okay. The only other thought I had is, you know, under our national enforcement plan we look at cases as -- some cases as being priority. I think it's clear to me that this should be in a priority. Are we dealing with it -- the cases that come in under this backlash rubric in that way? And if so, are there ramifications of that?
MS. THORNTON: We have -- the field is obviously very sensitized to the issue. They are treating these charges as they would treat other sensitive charges, meaning that they are getting attention.
I thought it might be interesting, because you're the -- from the categorization perspective, to give you a sense of where these charges are. As I said, we had 100 -- received 166. Ten have been closed, two with successful mediations, and one with a request for right to sue.
Of the remaining 82 -- and that is 49 percent -- have been categorized as A's. And this is in contrast to the general realm of charges where A's generally are around 23 to 24 percent. So, clearly, the charges are getting the attention, and having been categorized as A's, should they prove to be cause, they eventually -- if we aren't able to successfully settle them -- could be part of the litigation pool.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Commissioner Miller?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I know where to find each and every one of you on this panel.
So I -- so should I have any questions, I -- I know where you live so to speak, where they work -- some of where they live.
I do, though, want to, again, try to bring it together with one question, you know, for some of our panelists who are still here, and so on, and ask Liz to talk a little bit -- or ask Ms. Thornton or the others -- to talk a little bit about the connection, to sort of bring us full circle -- from the stories that we heard in our first panel, from the individual stakeholder groups, the stories of discrimination that they have been collecting, and sort of how that -- you know, whether we are -- whether you think we are successfully making full circle that the stories that they are telling in the stakeholder groups are actually translating into charges which are being filed or our offices accepting, and charges that are either drafted or working with organizations that are bringing charges to the EEOC, and see if you can sort of tie that -- those two pieces together, the data that you reported and the stories that we heard earlier today, if you could.
MR. NEELY: Well, as I have indicated, Commissioner, we have worked very closely with the basic civil rights organizations in the Arab community, ADC, as well as ACCESS. And so what we have done is they advise us when they -- we need to come out to meet with the individuals to make sure that we have appropriately drawn charges.
We've gotten information from Liz's staff about potential problems that exist, and we -- we try to work through those with ACCESS and ADC, so that we can make sure that we capture all of the problems that we are aware of in the community.
MS. THORNTON: I think the same would be true of many of the other districts. Clearly, some of it is run by populations. Jim has a large Muslim population, Arab population, in his area. But where the populations exist we have done the outreach. We continue to do the outreach.
Where people come to us, we make efforts to try to track down the source. I know a situation that we got from the Vice Chair dealing with a recruitment situation where neither party would -- the party wouldn't identify themselves, nor the respondents, and we made efforts through the Vice Chair's office to try to locate. We weren't able to. But, likewise, those things happen constantly in the field.
So I think that there is a real effort to try to bring the stories and translate those into live charges within the Commission's system.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: In my remaining one minute and 46 seconds --
-- let me just -- let me just offer just a thought. I think that the actions and the activities that we've taken in communities and districts like Detroit, where there are very, very large communities of Arab Americans and Muslims, I think is entirely appropriate and useful and where we should be.
I would also offer, though, the thought that it is also, though it plays -- it may play out a little differently, also in communities where there are not large pockets of Muslims and communities where Arab Americans do not have the large support or the large historical community within an area.
Those are communities, those are geographic areas and districts that we need to spend special attention to, because I think issues of harassment, issues of discrimination, are particularly ripe in those areas where Muslims and Arab Americans do not have the sense of -- the large sense of community by numbers.
So I think that what we're doing in Detroit can very well be sort of played out in all of our offices and that we should pay some particular attention, given this issue on the national agenda, to sort of reach out and make sure that we're doing what is appropriate across our agency.
MS. THORNTON: I would agree. We did not mean to leave the impression that in offices that did not have large populations that nothing is being done. In fact, all of our offices are doing outreach.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Thank you. Good. Perfect timing, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER MILLER: Right on time.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Jim, I have one quick question, and it has to do with the outreach to the employer community. Obviously, you have a huge presence of employers there -- the auto industry of America, huge employers, and you are very high profile with a lot of community groups.
Tell me a little bit about how you have been able to share best practices, what some of the employers are doing, so that we can learn from each other.
MR. NEELY: Well --
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Tell me a little bit about that piece of it.
MR. NEELY: Well, two things. One, as I indicate, we do a lot of outreach, and outreach isn't just confined to the minority communities. We do a lot of outreach with the employer community as well.
We talk about burning issues in the community that they need to be aware of. We advise them, and we have advised them, for example, of the availability of EEO posters and the languages that they may have employees who -- who are members of that community.
We have also, when we've had the issues of backlash arise, we've advised employers that that has become a serious concern of ours, and that they proactively need to look at that as an issue to -- that -- so that they won't have to deal with us who, on the back end, have to deal with problems associated with their failure to do so.
So we do a lot of that and kind of give them an idea of what is the -- what are the problems that we see and that may be occurring within the community, so they can kind of be proactive in addressing those issues.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Is there a local SHRM chapter that you --
MR. NEELY: There is. We -- specifically, our SHRM chapter we work with more -- particularly in terms of mediation programs, and so we talk to them about the other way of remedying problems and addressing problems that may arise, and that is through our mediation program. So they kind of get a sense of that, and they also learn from us, again, about the problems that we see arising within the community.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: One of the concerns that I've always had is that somehow we end up talking to groups in silos. We have this group coming in, and then we have that group coming in, and I -- I really hope we can become the catalyst for total unity and integration, because I think that's where we're going to start breaking down some of these barriers and misperception and allowing people to be comfortable and understand the issues from each other's perspective in a common forum.
So I really welcome your -- your help and assistance in trying to do that at the local level, because I believe that's where the real action is in helping and advancing true employment opportunities for all.
So thank you all for sharing your perspectives and all the hard work. I know this was not part of the program plan when we started this year, and it's been totally unexpected among all of us. But you've really gone above and beyond the call of duty in pulling it together and helping the Commission be at the forefront of this huge, huge challenge that we face as a nation.
As our meeting comes to a close, I want to conclude with a couple of thoughts, and that is, first, what results do we want to see come from this forum? To the extent that the fight against backlash discrimination has been a success story already, we need to learn from that experience.
One group reported to us that there has been a few or no reported incidents of backlash discrimination in workplaces where the employer had its EEO infrastructure in place, where the CEO sent out a strong policy against discrimination soon after September 11th, and where internal dispute resolution mechanisms were available. All of these issues we were able to diffuse ahead of time. And we urge employers to continue to apply these lessons of success more broadly.
I also want to commend the two employer organizations, the Equal Employment Advisory Council and the Society of Human Resources Managers, for being at the forefront of this issue and proactively assisting the employer community in dealing with this issue.
Unfortunately, we have the other end of the spectrum, and that is where we have no policies and no preventive measures, which allows the employment environment to be infected by ethnic or religious prejudice. We need to ensure that victims come forward to report these unlawful acts.
The response to backlash discrimination can teach us how to raise the EEOC's outreach and enforcement programs to higher levels of effectiveness.
Finally, let me close by looking to a very different issue, which is another future challenge for the EEOC, but one that faces us on the international front. Events of recent weeks have opened the eyes of America as never before to the plight of women in Afghanistan.
Before the Taliban regime took over, Afghan women were protected by law and made up large percentages of doctors, government workers, and schoolteachers. The Taliban regime banned women from getting an education, from working, and from moving about their communities freely. As First Lady Laura Bush said in her radio address, "The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women."
I believe that the EEOC has a vital leadership role to play with respect to employment rights in other countries. And as the rebuilding process begins in Afghanistan, the EEOC is preparing to extend a helping hand.
America's equal employment opportunity laws have long been a model for the world, and they've helped to unify us in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11th, and, as a consequence, as are strengthened in our resolve to combat bigotry and discrimination in any form.
There being no further business, do I hear a motion to adjourn?
VICE CHAIR IGASAKI: I so move.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: Is there a second?
COMMISSIONER MILLER: I second.
CHAIR DOMINGUEZ: All in favor?
(Chorus of ayes.)
The motion carries. We're adjourned. Thank you.
(Whereupon, the proceedings in the foregoing matter were adjourned.)
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