I started a new job and feel very fortunate to have been hired. I enjoy my work, but am having trouble with two co-workers who have figured out that I’m Jewish, probably from my last name. These women have made a couple of comments which made me very uncomfortable. I was in the lunchroom getting a coffee when they both approached and asked me what my thoughts were about Jews killing Christ. I was shocked and quite shaken. I left and went back to work without acknowledging them.
On another occasion, when there were many people in the lunchroom, the conversation turned to food. Again, one of the women pointed me out and said maybe Janice can educate us on bagels. I don’t want to fight. I just want them to go away. I don’t want to stand out in any way.
Dear Feeling Threatened,
Your problem is serious and common enough that there are laws in place to protect you. In Ontario, about three-quarters of all human rights claims come from the workplace.
You are the victim of anti-Semitism in the workplace. I realize that you’re new in the company and don’t want to make waves, hoping these two will just go away. That’s not going to happen.
Take steps to protect your comfort and safety at work. You have that right, the same as they do. If you don’t want to confront them directly, arrange a private meeting with the head of HR and explain your situation. State that you don’t want any problems or to stand out, you just want to do your job and be respected and feel safe.
We live in a culturally diverse country, and I’m sure your workplace is made up of people from many different backgrounds. Suggest that your company have a zero tolerance policy for hate. They should distribute a statement or handbook explaining the requirement to respect diversity and practise tolerance in the workplace. They should already have a policy in place, but it needs to be reviewed with all employees regularly. Bill 168 in Ontario, which addresses workplace violence and harassment, states: “Regularly train and educate employees at all levels to treat others respectfully and professionally.”
On a personal level, you can tell these two to please not refer to your religion in any way. Ask that they respect your boundaries and say that you will do the same. However, it sounds like these women are troublemakers, and it may not be that easy. Don’t be alone with them, and make sure there are always witnesses to their conversations with you. Above all, make sure you are safe.
Ever since the terrorist incident in Paris, I’ve felt very uneasy, not only for myself, but for my children. My son works for a Jewish organization and I worry about him. My daughter is a teacher, and I worry about her safety as well. The 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz has just passed, and I can’t help think that the world has learned nothing. I’m not looking for answers, just venting and hoping that I’m not alone in my feelings.
Looking over my Shoulder
Dear Looking over my Shoulder,
I can assure you that you’re not alone in your uneasiness.
You watch television, read news stories and are bombarded with stories of innocent people going about their day-to-day activities, being targeted. You are also living in a time where information is everywhere. You can’t turn your computer on without reading or seeing information and videos of terror. ISIS beheadings have become a regular visual, as have other terror incidents. It’s very difficult to avoid, but when you rationalize that the motive of the terrorist is to scare you and the motive of the news outlets is to keep up ratings, you may have a more logical answer to why you live in constant worry.
Don’t ignore it, but don’t focus on it, either. Focus instead on your family, your life, your routine and try not to let other peoples’ hatred and agendas rule your life.