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Identifying and Standing Up To Antisemitism in the Workplace

Workplaces are spaces where individuals of all backgrounds and beliefs should be able to thrive without the heavy burden of discrimination and harassment. With the rise of violence in the Middle East, antisemitic attitudes have resurfaced worldwide, including in the United States.

It is important to identify and combat antisemitism in the workplace to ensure that every employee is treated with respect and dignity. Below, we explore the nature of antisemitism, California’s legal framework for addressing these issues, and what constitutes antisemitism in the workplace. For Jewish employees in California facing workplace harassment and discrimination, it’s vital to know that there are broad legal protections and supports to combat this issue.

Understanding Antisemitism

Workplace discrimination refers to the unfair treatment of an employee or job applicant based on their race, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, religious practice, national origin, and more. Discriminatory behavior can manifest in various forms, including harassment, denial of promotions and opportunities, denial of reasonable accommodations for religious practices, and wrongful termination. Antisemitism generally refers to conduct that targets individuals because of their actual or perceived Jewish identity.

However, the Jewish identity is a complex matter, and antisemitism in the workplace does not have to fit into a single category to be prohibited. Judaism is a religion, and discrimination based on religious belief and practice is prohibited. However, not all Jews practice Judaism. Meaning, Jewish atheists are still Jews. This is because a person’s Jewish identity may be rooted in their ethnicity or ancestry: Ashkenazi, Sephardic, Mizrahi, Yemenite, and Beta Israel. Moreover, various Courts held that for purposes of anti-discrimination laws, Jews are a race. Promulgation of stereotypes about Jews is antisemitism based on negative perceptions about the Jewish identity, often without regard for ethnicity, ancestry or religious adherence. Finally, the State of Israel is associated with Jewishness, and vice versa. Thus, antisemitism can sometimes take the form of perceived national origin discrimination and harassment. 

While antisemitism does not neatly fit into a single legal checkbox, California law offers broad protections despite the nuanced concept of Jewish identity. Governor Gavin Newsom stated, “California already prohibits discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation and other characteristics, and state law specifies that these civil rights protections shall be liberally construed.” While his statement was made in the context of caste discrimination, it confirms that when ethnicity, ancestry, national origin and religion intersect, California law provides broad protections. 

California’s Legal Framework for Combating Antisemitic Discrimination

California has robust anti-discrimination laws in place to protect employees against workplace harassment and discrimination, including antisemitism. 

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits discrimination based on various factors, including religion, race, ancestry, ethnicity and national origin. Under FEHA:

  • Employers with five or more employees must provide a workplace free from discrimination and harassment.
  • Discrimination claims can be filed with the Civil Rights Department (CCR).
  • Employees have the right to file a civil lawsuit in court against their employer as well as individual harassers in the workplace.

What Constitutes Antisemitism in the Workplace?

Antisemitism in the workplace can take various forms, and it’s crucial to recognize these behaviors and conduct. Some common examples of antisemitic discrimination include:

  1. Derogatory Comments and Harassment: Engaging in unwelcome comments, jokes or slurs related to the Jewish identity.
  2. Exclusion: Isolating Jewish employees, excluding them from work-related activities, or making them feel unwelcome.
  3. Religious Bias: Treating employees differently because of their Jewish beliefs and practices, such as scheduling conflicts on holidays or days of significance, e.g., Shabbat.
  4. Stereotyping: Spreading negative stereotypes about Jewish people.
  5. Hostile Work Environment: Creating an environment where Jewish employees feel threatened, unwelcome, or uncomfortable due to their identity.
  6. Retaliation: Punishing employees for reporting antisemitic behavior or discrimination.

Consult Expert Workplace Discrimination Lawyers About Antisemitism

Antisemitism in the workplace, harassment and discrimination, is unacceptable and illegal in California. Understanding your rights, recognizing the signs of antisemitism, and taking appropriate legal action can help combat discrimination and promote a fair and inclusive work environment.If you’re facing antisemitic workplace discrimination, don’t hesitate to seek legal guidance. An experienced attorney, such as those at Le Clerc & Le Clerc, LLP, can help you navigate the legal process, gather evidence, and represent your interests effectively. By taking action against workplace discrimination and harassment, you protect your rights and contribute to a more equitable workplace for all employees. Remember, you don’t have to face workplace harassment alone. Schedule your consultation at Le Clerc & Le Clerc, LLP, to learn more about how we can help.

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