A new bill introduced to the California state legislature could make California the first state in the U.S. to ban discrimination based on caste.
The bill was introduced after several years of high-profile caste harassment employment claims in the technology industry. If passed, it would add caste as a protected class under California’s anti-discrimination laws, alongside race, national origin, religion, and color.
Caste discrimination is not currently widely recognized outside of communities that experience it, but it is no less harmful for that. Here is what you need to know about how the bill could protect you against workplace harassment.
What Is Caste Discrimination?
Caste is a fundamental element of Hinduism. Under the religion, there are four official castes with descending levels of religious importance: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, and Sudras. Beneath these castes are the Dalit, or “untouchables,” considered outcasts by society. Each of these castes is based on the family of descent, and someone born in a certain caste remains within it their entire life.
Castes have become the grounds for significant discrimination within Southeast Asia and its diaspora. Many people report suffering from discriminatory behavior because they were born to a Dalit family similar to that faced by religious and racial minorities. For example, Dalit engineers in Silicon Valley report struggling to find and keep work due to their status.
Impact of the New Bill
The new law could make this form of discriminatory action explicitly illegal. Currently, no state or federal law bans caste-based discrimination. As such, it is technically permissible to make negative employment decisions based on castes as long as your employer doesn’t take into account protected characteristics like your national origin, ancestry, or race.
Adding castes as a protected class could have a significant impact on the ability of Southeast Asian people to find fair employment, especially in areas and industries with substantial diasporic populations. In particular, it could help the thousands of California residents with certain family names to avoid unfair and unjust discrimination in the workplace.
Fighting Back Against Caste Discrimination in California
The anti-discrimination bill was only introduced to the legislature in March, so it has a long journey before it could be signed into law. However, you have options if you have suffered from caste-related harassment or wrongful termination.
Castes are closely tied to ancestry, which is itself a protected class. You may be able to file a claim against your employer on these grounds with the guidance of an experienced employment law attorney. The experts at Alexander Morrison + Fehr LLP are on your side. We proudly represent and fight for workers who have faced unjust discrimination in the workplace. Reach out today to discuss your case and explore how we can help you pursue justice for your employer’s actions.