The horrendous terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel have shook the world. Employers are now hearing about the war, antisemitism and discrimination based on religion or national origin in their workplace. It is important for all employers to ensure steps are taken to provide a safe environment for all that have been impacted by the war.
So what are my legal duties as an Employer?
As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that you foster a safe and respectful workplace for all employees. The U.S. saw a rise in antisemitism more than 34 percent in 2021 than 2020, and antisemitic incidents continue to rapidly increase in light of the war going on in Israel. (Source: www.Adl.org) Notably, according to Pew Research, nearly two-thirds of Jews have witnessed workplace antisemitism and report feeling less safe while on the job. (Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/) With antisemitism on the rise, especially in light of the war in Israel bringing this issue to the forefront, employers must ensure that any aggression and hateful behavior, against any religion, does not transpire in, or permeate, the workplace.
The California Labor Code requires that all employers have a legal duty to protect their employees from discrimination and harassment. As a reminder, discrimination in the workplace based on religion, ethnicity and national origin is protected under California law. Employers must remind all employees to continue to abide by your company’s anti-harassment policies. Now is a good time to re-circulate your harassment policies in the workplace to reinforce that your business takes harassment seriously. Emphasize what the proper steps are to raise a complaint in the workplace and that you, the employer, will take proper steps if a complaint is raised.
There is a complaint from my employee, what do I do as an Employer?
Every company needs a solid anti-harassment and zero tolerance in the workplace policy to combat hate, like antisemitism–rules your company follows if something happens. If you do not have one in place, as we head into 2024, now is the time to get one in place for your business. In addition to reinforcing the anti-harassment policy in your workplace, Employers should also ensure that each member of management is properly trained on how to address any discrimination or harassment based on any protected categories (i.e., religion (such as antisemitism), race and national origin); or, what to do if approached by an employee with a complaint of any kind. Do not ignore complaints by employees. Have a clear pathway for your employees to follow. This includes being vigilant and watching for any social triggers, language being used in the office or in the field, that contains antisemitic verbiage, postings or emails (external or internal emails or instant messaging applications used at the workplace) or graffiti, just some examples, and respond and shut down such rhetoric immediately. Remind employees of the expectation of fostering a safe and respectful workplace regardless of anyone’s religion, national origins or personal views. Management should also be versed on how to properly address any complaints of antisemitism or discrimination based on religion or national origin, take all complaints seriously, timely investigate all complaints, and hold violators accountable for such conduct.
Morale and the emotional well-being of your employees is key to a successful workplace. For most employers, your employees are looking to you, their leaders, or their managers/supervisors to set the tone, to demonstrate how to handle the concerns of their Jewish and Palestinian employees alike. This is not always easy. But showing you are listening and taking swift action where it is needed for those that fail to comply with your company policies will send a message to all your employees of your expectations for a safe and respectful workplace. For more information on combating antisemitism, or any discrimination, in the workplace, for guidance and counseling in the event an employee raises a complaint, and to draft policies that are California compliant, contact the Employer Lawyers at Chauvel & Glatt.
Chauvel & Glatt stands with Israel. Our hearts go out to our Jewish colleagues, clients and their families and all those affected by these acts against humanity.
This material in this article, provided by Chauvel & Glatt, is designed to provide informative and current information as of the date of the post. It should not be considered, nor is it intended to constitute legal advice. For information on your particular circumstances, please contact Chauvel & Glatt at 650-573-9500 for legal assistance near you. (photo credit: depositphotos.com).