In light of recent events and the uptick in anti-Asian bias due to the pandemic, you may wonder what protections the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and others of Asian descent really have.
Both California and federal law protect AAPI individuals and all Asian people from discrimination at work, and that includes violence.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) are geared toward protecting people from discrimination based on race, ancestry and national origin, along with many other characteristics.
As part of that protection, employers must take reasonable steps to protect their employees from discrimination, harassment or violence by their own staff and also by others, such as clients, customers and vendors.
The FEHA applies to employers with five or more employees, including both public and private employers, labor organizations and employment agencies. However, harassment is prohibited even in workplaces with fewer than five employees. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
What does anti-AAPI discrimination look like?
The AAPI community and people of Asian descent are sometimes referred to as a “model minority” with few problems in the United States. People sometimes treat individual Asians as if they are above reproach, good at math and technology, and unlikely to get into trouble.
This seemingly positive treatment of Asians can be problematic because it holds Asians up to a higher standard than other people and limits their humanity. Sometimes, Asians are found wanting when they don’t personally live up to these high standards.
There are other ways the AAPI and Asian communities suffer from racism. For example, Asian women are sometimes viewed as docile, doll-like creatures instead of full-fledged human beings.
For another example, AAPI individuals are sometimes treated as if they are not as American as people from other cultures, even when they are natural born U.S. citizens.
Certain AAPI people may be thought of as too different from “us” to be tolerated. There is a long history of legal exclusion of the AAPI community from American society and prosperity.
The most important thing to remember, perhaps, is that Asia is an enormous continent with many different cultures. An AAPI or Asian individual is just that – an individual – and should be treated as such. You cannot assume you understand much of anything about a person based on their race, ethnicity, ancestry or national origin.
Discrimination can include harassment
Asians and AAPI people have been facing a lot more harassment recently. At work, this could mean making racial slurs or derogatory remarks about someone because of their race or national origin. It can also include adhering to positive stereotypes. The harasser may be the victim’s co-worker, supervisor, or a non-employee such as a customer or client.
Whenever harassment is taking place, the employer has a duty to take reasonable steps to end it.
Both California and federal law forbid all forms of discrimination and serious, pervasive harassment against Asians and AAPI people. If you have suffered discrimination or harassment at work, contact an attorney who handles workplace discrimination claims.
Leigh Law Group handles all sorts of workplace discrimination claims and other civil rights claims.