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Annie’s Mailbox: Workers protected by law against bigotry

Thu., April 14, 2011

Dear Annie: My 29-year-old daughter works at a large multinational corporation. On numerous occasions and in different divisions of the corporation, she has heard anti-Jewish comments.

For whatever reason, she chooses to remain silent when these remarks are made. We are Jewish, and her grandparents were Holocaust survivors. I have told her she needs to speak up, but she doesn’t want to make waves.

It pains me to know that my daughter is working in an environment where the employees have no qualms about displaying their bigotry, and that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the USA. I am also upset that she lets these opinions go without challenging them or, at a minimum, telling the bigot that she is Jewish and such statements are inappropriate in the workplace.

Any suggestions as to what I could say to my daughter to convince her that it is her duty to confront the bigotry head-on? – Dismayed in the Boston Area

Dear Boston: While we understand your daughter’s reluctance, it is incumbent upon everyone to speak up when they witness bigotry of any kind. We contacted David Kurzmann, assistant director of the Anti-Defamation League in Greater Chicago and the Upper Midwest. He said the law protects workers against religion-based harassment, intimidation and repeated insult, especially where it harms the employee’s employment, position or compensation.

Most large companies have complaint processes (usually through HR, an ombuds office or an ethics line). Your daughter may also have legal claims against the company and may wish to talk to an employment lawyer. Organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League ( and Workplace Fairness ( may be able to offer further advice on how to proceed.

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