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U.S. employers, no less than U.S. citizens, are searching for appropriate ways to respond to the recent tragedies that have struck our nation. One step that companies can take is to remind all employees, and particularly supervisors, that the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of religion or national origin remains a part of the employer’s policies and the country’s laws, and that harassment on the basis of national origin and religion is no less prohibited now than it was a few weeks ago. A memorandum to employees could read as follows: In the wake of the tragedy that has struck our nation, President Bush reminded us that religious intolerance and bigotry are antithetical to the very fiber of what the United States stands for, and that the openness and tolerance of our culture is what separates us from those who seek now to terrorize us. The same may be said about [insert company name]. Our company’s policies prohibit discrimination against anyone who works for us, or who applies to work for us, based on his or her religion or national origin. Our company also prohibits a hostile atmosphere that interferes with any employee’s ability to work effectively. This prohibition applies to all types of harassment, including sexual harassment and harassment based on religion or national origin. During these volatile times, which could easily become more rather than less troubled, fear and anger might cause some of us to begin losing sight of [insert company's name]‘s policies and to tolerate conduct that we might have found unacceptable just a week or so ago. All of us, and particularly those who supervise others, must be alert to this possibility and unafraid to intervene. No less is required by the company, and no less is required by the laws of our country, and any questions or concerns of any kind should be brought to the attention of [insert contact person's name]. [insert company's name]‘s policies are something more than a catalog of things we cannot do. The company’s reiteration of its commitment to upholding the nation’s laws prohibiting discrimination ensures that every employee enjoys the same rights in the workplace. The internment of Japanese-Americans was a shameful chapter in our history. It seems equally inconceivable now that our country would have tolerated Jim Crow laws. But we have learned, and we have evolved, and we have become more tolerant in the years since then. Conduct that was shameful sixty years ago is now unlawful as well. This is to remind all employees that we must be ever vigilant, so that we continue to exhibit the tolerance that is the benchmark of this nation’s policies. This is particularly true now, when we are under assault by those who would have us abandon our values out of fear, or anger, or both. We must not forget that our country, and our company, are strong because we focus on what we can accomplish together, and not on where we are from, or whom we worship. Management lawyer, David Wirtz, is a partner at Rains & Pogrebinin New York. He can be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].

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