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Expert Advice: How to Protect Yourself From Bias and Backlash at Work

Edward Henderson | California Black Media

As reports of antisemitic and Islamophobic threats and acts of hate and violence increase in California and across the country, the California Commission on the State of Hate (Commission) and California Civil Rights Department (CRD) continue to encourage Californians to take advantage of anti-hate resources available statewide, including the California vs Hate hotline and website.

“The Commission on the State of Hate stands united in shared humanity with the people of California in denouncing violence and hate,” said Commission Chair Russell Roybal in a statement.

“We recognize what is happening in the Middle East has devastated communities in California. Unfortunately, when these horrific events occur, instances of hate tend to rise as well. No person, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Palestinian, Israeli, or perceived as members of any of these groups, should be subject to prejudice or violence,” he added.

“If you experience or witness hate in California, we encourage you to contact CA vs Hate to report the incident and get connected to support and resources.”

Sentiments about the conflict in the Middle East have unfortunately spilled over in workplaces across the state in the form of backlash and discrimination.

According to experts, microaggressions can foster a hostile work environment leaving many employees uncertain about their rights and protections. It is important for individuals experiencing these attacks to know that they are protected under law.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. This prohibition extends to discrimination based on religion, national origin, and race.

Illegal discrimination against job applicants or employees can take several forms. One form is the adverse treatment of an individual based on their actual or perceived religious practices or membership in a particular racial or national origin group (e.g., Israeli or Palestinian).

Another form is adverse treatment based on the assumption that the individual holds certain beliefs because of their religion, national origin, or race. There can also be adverse treatment due to the individual’s actual or perceived association with, or relationship to, a person of a particular religion, national origin, or race.

Adverse treatment can also occur due to actual or perceived participation in, or association with, civic, cultural, or religious organizations that are closely aligned with particular religions, national origins, or racial groups. Lastly, there can be differential treatment of individuals of different religions, national origins, or races when they engage in similar speech or conduct due to these protected characteristics.

“We stand united in condemning hate wherever it occurs,” said CRD Acting Director Mary Wheat. “No matter your faith or where you come from, all our state’s residents deserve to live free from the fear of being attacked because of who they are. In this moment of conflict abroad, we must do our part to support one another and offer pathways for healing. I encourage all Californians to take advantage of CA vs Hate by calling 833-8-NO-HATE or heading to CAvsHate.org for support and resources if you or someone you know has been targeted for hate.”

Discussions are taking place among the groups most affected by backlash from the Middle East conflict. The California Civil Rights Department hosted a webinar to discuss Antisemitism and Islamophobia in the workplace. Maha Elgenaidi and Karen Stiller, Muslim and Jewish speakers from ING’s Interfaith Speakers Bureau shared their thoughts on how open discourse and understanding can be key steps to finding common ground.

“I’ve been a huge proponent of holding dialogues about the war to understand where each group is coming from,” said Elgenaidi. “We have completely different narratives about the conflict, but if you sit down and actually talk with them, you realize you’re not that far apart and work on common grounds.”

“Contrary to perceptions, Muslim and Jewish Americans have always collaborated on shared interests and concerns,” Stiller added. “Working together on bigotry, we develop a lot of empathy and compassion for each other. By doing these panels we’re modeling how to bridge gaps amongst differences and really how much we have in common.”

The UCLA Center for Equity and Inclusion recommends four tactics to respond to workplace bias or hate.

Interrupt Early

Workplace culture largely is determined by what is or isn’t allowed to occur. If people are lax in responding to bigotry, then bigotry prevails.

Use or Establish Policies

Call upon existing policies to address bigoted language or behavior. Work with your personnel director or human resources department to create new policies and procedures, as needed. Also ask your company to provide anti-bias training.

Go Up the Ladder

If behavior persists, take your complaints up the management ladder. Find allies in upper management and call on them to help create and maintain an office environment free of bias and bigotry.

Band Together

Like-minded colleagues also may form an alliance and then ask the colleague or supervisor to change his or her tone or behavior.

CA vs Hate is a non-emergency, multilingual hate crime and incident reporting hotline and online portal. Reports can be made anonymously by calling (833) 866-4283, or 833-8-NO-HATE, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT or online at any time. Hate acts can be reported in 15 different languages through the online portal and in over 200 languages when calling the hotline. For individuals who want to report a hate crime to law enforcement immediately or who are in imminent danger, please call 911. For more information on CA vs Hate, please visit CAvsHate.org.

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