How to prevent antisemitism in the workplace 

Unfortunately, antisemitism has reared its ugly head again in the wake of the horrific terrorist attack in southern Israel October 7, 2023. It’s hard to believe that more than 1,400 innocent civilians were massacred and about 240 abducted in the largest single-day slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust. 

Shockingly, since that attack, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have risen by nearly 400%, according to the Anti-Defamation League. We’re seeing this on college campuses nationwide, among other places. 

Antisemitism is the hatred of Jews. In the workplace, it manifests itself in the taking of any adverse action against a Jewish employee because of their religion or heritage, including unwarranted discipline, failure to promote, demotion, pay disparity, job segregation or employment termination, as well as making slurs, threats, or negative stereotypes against the Jewish people and/or the state of Israel, drawing swastikas, or engaging in physical violence. 

For example, antisemitism may be cloaked in the words, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The U.S. Congress, the American Jewish Committee, and the Anti-Defamation League consider this slogan to be hateful and antisemitic, as it is widely recognized as a call to violence to wipe out the Jewish state of Israel and its Jewish inhabitants – from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, which is the land where most of Israel exists today. 

There is nothing antisemitic about advocating for Palestinians to have their own state, which some say is all this slogan does. However, calling for the elimination of the Jewish state, or suggesting that Jews do not have the right to self-determination, is antisemitic. 

Employment laws clearly prohibit antisemitism in any form.  The federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as various state and local anti-discrimination laws – including the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, New York State and New York City Human Rights Laws, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act – prohibit workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on religion and heritage. 

What should employers do to prevent antisemitism? 

Here are five actions you should take to prevent this unacceptable, illegal conduct:

  • Ensure that your policies, trainings and procedures on equal employment opportunity, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment, diversity, equity, and inclusion specifically address antisemitism. 
  • Provide clear guidance that antisemitic statements and posts on social media will not be tolerated. Free speech does not apply in the private workplace. 
  • Consider installing an antisemitism hotline and investigate any complaints immediately. 
  • If you have Employee Resource Groups for other employees, add one for your Jewish employees to give them a sense of belonging. 
  • Offer reasonable accommodations to your Jewish employees for religious observances and dress. Watch our video on religious accommodations in the workplace here for more information. 

Employers must be vigilant to prevent antisemitism in the workplace. Let us help you avoid conflict and employee lawsuits and thus protect your business by scheduling a Strategy Session with us today. 

This blog is for informational purposes only. It is not offered as legal advice, nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship with any reader.

Consult with competent local employment counsel to determine how the matters addressed here may affect you.

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