HomeAsian AmericansDiscrimination against Asian American workers amidst COVID-19 is illegal, reminds EEOC Chair

Discrimination against Asian American workers amidst COVID-19 is illegal, reminds EEOC Chair

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a recent statement telling employers to keep an eye out for mistreatment or harassment against Asian Americans in the workplace amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Crises like the COVID-19 pandemic can bring out the best and worst in people,” said Janet Dhillon, EEOC’s chair. “Sadly, there have also been reports of mistreatment and harassment of Asian Americans and other people of Asian descent.  In the workplace, these actions can result in unlawful discrimination on the basis national origin or race.”

The statement then asked employers to be mindful and deal with instances of intimidation and other discriminatory actions to ensure “respectful workplaces.”

The Civil Rights Act of 1964’s Title VII “protects individuals against employment discrimination on the basis of race and color as well as national origin, sex, or religion,” whether unintentionally or by neutral policies that disproportionately affect minorities, according to the EEOC site. In both the hiring and working process, conduct, such as racial or ethnic slurs or “jokes,” are not tolerated under Title VII.

More specifically, employers must be cautious about stereotyping in order not to “[promote] an environment against an employee because he or she is from China,” said Amy L. Blaisdell, a Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale Officer.

“It’s a good time to remind employers to not enact policies against Chinese people but against people who have traveled to China,” she added.

However, employers may “reasonably” ask a worker who has traveled from another country within 14 days or is showing symptoms to work remotely or self-isolate.

There have been 750 reports of bias against AAPI since mid-March, and hate crimes will be sure to continue during the coronavirus outbreak, according to an FBI analysis.

“The data from our reporting center–both the numbers and the self-reported narratives–clearly reveal that Asian Americans are being racially profiled as threatening, disease-carriers. Not only are Chinese Americans blamed and mistreated, but Asian Americans of other ethnic backgrounds are also being targeted,” said Russell Jeung, Ph.D., chair and professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, in an interview with AsAmNews.

According to HRDive, an employer is “automatically liable” for harassment by a supervisor that results in a hostile work environment or roadblock to an otherwise deserved promotion or wage.

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