It wasn’t long ago that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission noticed a spike in reports of mistreatment and harassment of Asian Americans and other people of Asian descent during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Before that, when many Americans clamored for a wall on the southern border, Hispanic workers in the U.S. endured taunts of stealing jobs and threats of deportation. Around the same time, restrictions on immigration from other parts of the world fueled xenophobia against employees of Middle Eastern descent.
These actions can result in unlawful discrimination based on national origin or race in the workplace.
And current events are no different. Many now stand with Ukraine against Vladimir Putin and his decision to invade Ukraine. It’s easy to stereotype people connected to Russia as evil or “Commies.” But the Putin opposition includes many Russians and Russian Americans who do not want to go to war.
So please remind your employees and managers that your company does not tolerate national origin discrimination or race discrimination. This includes discrimination against individuals based on their perceived race or national origin. If I discriminate against someone of Eastern European descent because I confuse them for being Russian, that’s still discrimination.
If employees complain about discrimination — in whatever form — take those complaints seriously, investigate, and correct this behavior.
EEOC Commissioner Janet Dhillon’s sentiment during the COVID-19 pandemic applies with equal force here: “Our collective efforts to create respectful workplaces for all our nation’s workers, even during these trying times, will enable us to emerge from this crisis stronger and more united.”