DETROIT — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a candid panel discussion on workplace discrimination during its Annual Detroit Seminar on Thursday, July 19, at the Wayne State University School of Law.
The panel, entitled “Diversity in the Workplace,” focused on issues of race discrimination, stereotyping and harassment in the workplace.
Among the distinguished group of panelists were Nadia Fadel, Director of Policy and Community Affairs for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Michigan, Hon. Stuart Ishimaru, Commissioner of the EEOC, and Heaster Wheeler, Executive Director of the Detroit Branch of the NAACP. Each panelist shared their ideas about workplace discrimination and discussed related issues from their own unique perspectives.
Fadel, who spoke extensively about employment issues pertaining to the Arab American community, said that there has been an alarming increase in cases of discrimination in the workplace over the past few years. Employees face unfair treatment because of their nationality and religion, and many incidents are not reported to the employers due to fear and intimidation.
“About one-fourth of the cases we receive at the ADC Regional Office are workplace related complaints,” Fadel stated. “These complaints come from various places of employment, and all fields of work. The amount of bias and harassment that Arab Americans are currently facing is extreme, and needs to be addressed.”
Wheeler added to the discussion his views on the biases that Arab Americans currently deal with as a direct result of the events of 9/11, and pointed out that all minorities can relate to the struggles they face.
“9/11 really reminded us that none of us can really become comfortable in our freedom,” stated Wheeler. “All of us have to care about issues of profiling and immigration. We have an obligation to be concerned about how we treat the least among us, and some of the challenges that take place in our world are really responsibilities for all of us.”
The panelists also discussed forms of discrimination that are subtle, yet still contribute to a hostile work environment. These situations happen frequently, usually in the form of intimidation. In these instances, the discrimination is hard to pinpoint, and employees who fall victim to it are usually apprehensive about coming forward to file a complaint.
“Often times, people in a given workplace environment may not come off as blatantly biased, but unfair treatment exists nonetheless,” said Fadel. “Due to common stereotypes and negative media portrayals, there are certain misconceptions out there that can lead to a hostile environment for the employee. It is only through open communication and education that we can begin to resolve these issues.”
One way ADC Michigan is attempting to reach out to local entities is through an interactive training DVD about Arab Americans and American Muslims, which they are offering to local corporations and business establishments who wish to broaden their knowledge and understanding of Arabs and Muslims.
To receive more information on the training DVD, please contact Nadia Fadel at the ADC Michigan Office at (313) 581-1201, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.