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Caste discrimination at work: California votes for a total ban

On Behalf of | Sep 18, 2023 | Employment Law |

California already has existing laws to protect employees against discriminatory acts based on the range of characteristics they represent. These include common classifications, like gender, religion and race, and more specific ones, such as disability, medical condition, genetic information and marital status.

However, a new anti-discrimination bill seeks to dive deeper into ancestry. The proposal aims to elaborate on the meaning of ancestral inequalities by including caste.

With roots in India, Hinduism and other South Asian countries spanning thousands of years, caste is a complex form of social stratification that divides people into groups based on their social, political or economic status. Those at the bottom of the hierarchy are known as the “untouchables.” They often suffer biased practices for being “impure, polluted or lesser beings.”

With the state’s lawmakers on the verge of passing new legislation to ban caste discrimination, employees and employers must be wary of workplace policies considered to be unequal or abusive based on ancestry.

Exposing caste discrimination

The new bill, being a first of its kind, shows how caste discrimination in U.S. workplaces is a matter that needs more discussion. As it continues to gain ground, employers may have to heighten the extent of their awareness to prevent applying it without knowing they are already doing it. Similarly, employees must also not hesitate to report any disturbing action they find to be caste-based, which may include the following:

  • Hiring based on ancestry, instead of looking at skills
  • Assessing work based on ancestry, instead of considering the quality of performance
  • Imposing menial and hazardous tasks, instead of providing safe and growth-driven assignments
  • Limiting or blocking access to substantial resources, instead of supplying necessary tools
  • Excluding from meaningful discussions, instead of valuing insights on decision-making processes

Advocates believe this new rule may be a step in the right direction. It can convert dialogues into implementable solutions. Critics, however, express their concern, saying it will only solidify class segregation at work.

Progressing to more inclusive workplaces

Workplace policies must stay on top of new laws to reflect the ever-evolving social and cultural fabric. After all, employers have a duty to their employees to provide inclusive spaces. Employees must also show each other respect. If an individual receives unjust treatment while doing their job, they must speak with their counsel to address issues and fight for their rights.