U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Washington, D.C. 20507 FACT SHEET ON PROPOSED

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Washington, D.C. 20507 FACT SHEET ON PROPOSED GUIDELINES ON HARASSMENT BASED ON RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, SEX, NATIONAL ORIGIN, AGE OR DISABILITY 1. The Guidelines were issued to help employers understand existing law. Employers are constantly seeking guidance on these issues. There were already Guidelines on sexual harassment and on national origin harassment, but none on race, color or religious harassment or on the other bases covered by federal employment discrimination statutes: age and disability. Because of the recent emphasis on sexual harassment, it was important to clarify the fact that workplace harassment was prohibited on any and all of the bases covered by the laws the Commission enforces. To omit religion from the Guidelines is likely to mislead employers into believing that religious based harassment is permissible. 2. Since Title VII was passed in 1964, it has been illegal to subject employees to different and hostile working conditions because of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This is because Title VII prohibits employers from "discrimit[ing] against any individual with respect to his . . . terms, conditions, or privileges of employment." 3. The Guidelines simply explain to employers the existing rules about harassment. They were derived from case law, the Commission's pre-existing Guidelines on National Origin Harassment, the Guidelines on Sexual Harassment and the Policy Guidance on Sexual Harassment. If clarifications are needed, they will be made before any Guidelines are issued. 4. Critical point: Not all offensive conduct violates the law. Harassing conduct rises to the level of unlawful discrimination _only_ when a reasonable person would regard it as _hostile or abusive._ 5. Because the law is violated only when the complained of conduct is sufficiently severe and pervasive to be found hostile or abusive, Title VII would not be implicated when a supervisor merely tells subordinates that he or she is Jewish, Muslim, Christian, etc. Reasonable people would not deem a statement of one's own affiliation, by itself, to amount to severe or pervasive hostility to those who do not share the same belief. Nor could it reasonably be deemed to be hostile to another's religious beliefs to wear a cross or a yarmulke. It is one thing to express one's own beliefs; another to disparage the religion or beliefs of others. In a diverse workforce, this is a critical distinction and is the heart of non-discrimination law. 6. The Commission has never taken the position that Title VII prohibits the statement of one's own beliefs in the workplace. To the contrary the Commission has repeatedly ruled that employers must permit employees to wear yarmulkes and other religious garb to work unless doing otherwise would cause safety problems or other undue hardship. In addition, Title VII explicitly permits religious organizations to employ individuals of a particular religion to carry out the activities of those entities. 7. As the Guidelines explain, however, the law does protect employees from having to endure severe or pervasive conduct that is hostile or abusive on the basis of religion. This is merely an extension of Title VII's basic protection against discrimination on the basis of religion. Thus, for example, an employee has redress if s/he is subjected to repeated epithets or insults hostile to his/her religion, just as an African-American employee has redress when subjected to repeated racial epithets at work. This affords protection to employees of all persuasions. Thus, a Christian employee would have recourse under Title VII if a "secular humanist" employer engaged in a pattern of ridiculing the employee's religious beliefs. 8. Although the public is most familiar with sexual harassment, the rule that it is unlawful discrimination to make work conditions hostile or abusive because of race, color, religion, national origin and sex, first arose in contexts other than gender. In 1971, in a case called _Rogers v. EEOC,_ 454 F.2d 234 (5th Cir. 1971), _cert. denied,_ 406 U.S. 957 (1972), a court held that segregating Hispanic patients can create hostile and discriminatory work conditions for a Hispanic employee, in violation of Title VII. _See also Rodgers v. Western-Southern Life Ins.,_ 792 F.Supp. 628 (E.D. Wisc. 1992) (statements that "you Black guys are too f---ing dumb to be insurance agents" created a hostile working environment), _aff'd_, -- F.2d --, 63 FEP Cases 694 (7th Cir. 1993). 9. The portion of Title VII quoted above in Para. 2 makes no distinction between the various bases covered; race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Neither have the courts. Title VII has always prohibited employers from subjecting employees to workplace harassment because of the employee's religion. For example, in _Weiss v. United States,_ 595 F. Supp. 1050, 1056 (E.D. Va. 1984) the court said: "when an employee is repeatedly subject to demeaning and offensive religious slurs before his fellows by a co-worker and by his supervisor, such activity necessarily has the effect of altering the conditions of his employment within the meaning of Title VII." 10. The principle that employees have a right to "work in an environment free from discriminatory intimidation, ridicule and insult," was recognized by the Supreme Court in 1986 in _Meritor Savings Banks v. Vinson_, 477 U.S. 57, 65 (1986). Though _Meritor_ was a sexual harassment case, the Court made clear that it was applying principles applicable to other classes covered by Title VII. The Court specifically accepted the principle that creation of a hostile environment based on discriminatory racial, _religious_, national origin, or sexual harassment constitutes a violation of Title VII. _See id._ at 66. Just this year, in _Harris v. Forklift Systems_, a sexual harassment case, the Supreme Court indicated that all bases covered by Title VII are treated the same. _See Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc._, No. 92- 1168 slip op. at 4 (Nov. 9, 1993); _id._ at 2 (Ginsburg, J., concurring) ("Title VII declares discriminatory practices based on race, gender, religion, or national origin equally unlawful"). -0- *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************


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