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Fort Hood: No Place for Harassment

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Major Nikal Hasan, the shooter at Fort Hood, was harassed because of his Muslim faith. Everything from taunts to giving him a diaper to wear around his head to drawing a camel on his car with “Camel jockey, get out” written underneath to keying his car. (Read other posts on the shooting at Ft. Hood.)

Religious harassment is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. After 9/11, claims of harassment against Muslim employees began to increase. Given endless accounts of Muslim suicide bombers and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that kind of harassment, if we’re honest, isn’t surprising. It is, however, against the law, and employers are charged with preventing it.

Although Major Hasan complained about his harassment to relatives and friends, did he tell Army personnel, particularly officers in a position to investigate and prevent? It’s hard to believe that no one in the Army knew about the harassment. Perhaps only his peers or subordinates knew. Perhaps Major Hasan didn’t report it to designated officials. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence. Employees are often reluctant to complain about harassment. The last thing they want is an investigation because they fear it will only lead to more harassment. This is especially true of employees like Major Hasan, who keep their concerns bottled up.

Fort Hood is a reminder that employers should enlist all employees to prevent harassment, no matter who it involves. Human resources professionals can’t ensure a harassment-free workplace. A policy won’t make it happen. It will occur only if all employees take it seriously. Of course, it must be clear that HR and other officials are also serious.

Nothing justifies what Major Hasan did at Fort Hood, but the harassment he received was one thing that pushed him over the edge. It should make all employers stop and think about what they can do to strengthen their efforts to rid the workplace of harassing conduct.

Learn more in the HR Guide to Employment Law: A practical compliance reference manual covering 14 topics, including workplace investigations, discrimination, and workplace violence

  1. The whole thing is so sad and sickening. The problem here though, comes from the man’s employer. He may have complained, but was probably discouraged from doing so, just the way women who serve have been discouraged from complaining about sexual harrassment and rape. The entire culture in the armed forces is to suck it up. The name calling (some good natured, some not) is constant, as is the need to prove yourself. There is a good reason for that. These people protect us and must be able to put themselves through all kinds of ordeals. The problem lies in knowing when to suck it up, and when to take action to change things and punish the wrongdoers. So far, the message has only been to suck it up.

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