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Lawsuits allege widespread anti-Asian discrimination in Tech

A series of discrimination cases filed against technology companies is striking a nerve with many Asian Americans.

“It’s a myth that the tech sector is a meritocracy,” says ex-Vice President of Operations Andre Wong, the plaintiff in a new lawsuit filed against his former employer, Lumentum. He’s alleging the tech sector relies on Asian American and Pacific Islander labor while systematically excluding AAPI employees from leadership positions.

Reactions to Wong’s lawsuit have led Asian American employees of many other major tech companies, including the Facebook parent Meta and the electric scooter company Lime, to speak out on the pervasiveness of the issue.

According to Wong, “Anyone who takes a close look at how Asian Americans are treated at work will see that [meritocracy is] an illusion. Although we are held to an impossible standard—which many meet and exceed, anyway—we are not seen as business leaders. It is not about individual qualifications; the barriers exist at an institutional level.” Speaking to ABC News, he described his former position at Lumentum as a “glass cliff job,” rather than a route to any further career advancement.

In the aftermath of the George Floyd shooting and the 2021 Atlanta shooting spree, Wong was asked to participate in the company’s “Courageous Conversation” about race at Lumentum. In his preparations, he reached out to other Asian American employees and uncovered many of them felt discrimination at the company, despite Newsweek having ranked it as America’s 31st most responsible company in 2023.

Another complaint from Jack Song, who formerly advised Lime on communications and branding, says that he went rapidly from being named company MVP to being stripped of his duties. His managers accused him of lacking a strong command of the English language. He called that accusation “insane” in a blog he wrote on LinkedIn.

Lime was founded by two Asian American entrepreneurs, with whom Song shares an alma mater and friendship. Yet he said he still faced destructive anti-Asian workplace discrimination, indicating the roots of the problem extend beyond individual corporations or businesspeople.

Wong’s lawsuit alleges that Lumentum was filled with anti-Asian prejudice by mostly White upper leadership. He said he was ridiculed by a White member of upper management, who told him to enunciate his “Rs” in “program.” When production at a portion of a facility in China failed, he said another wondered alout “Are they steaming rice in that section of the production floor?”

Beyond verbal abuse, Wong noted that East Asian Vice Presidents tended to be removed quickly from top management. Further, Wong reported a corporate officer for discrimination in May 2021. The company agreed the manager’s conduct was disrespectful but denied to characterize it as discrimination.

“We brought this case to raise awareness and fight the blatant discrimination against Asian Americans that persists broadly across Silicon Valley and tech,” says Charles Jung, partner at Nassiri & Jung LLP who is representing Wong.

Jung echoed the opinion of many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders involved in tech, including Vaishnavi Jayakumar, formerly employed at Meta.

Speaking on the emotional impact of discrimination and retaliation for seeking promotion at Meta to USA Today, she said: “I’ve never felt more keenly that as an Asian woman, I’m destined to be a worker, I’m not destined to be a leader, and that’s an awful feeling.”

She has filed a lawsuit against Meta.

Supporting Wong in his lawsuit is Stand with Asian Americans, a business advocacy group for Asian Americans, and the largest coalition of Asian American entrepreneurs, investors, business leaders and activists focused on anti-Asian discrimination by employers.

Jack Song, a member of Stand with Asian Americans and co-founder of brand strategy firm Colony5, said that Wong’s lawsuit “[..] will inspire more victims of workplace retaliation to speak up and seek legal action,” a prediction that is already coming true.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m not surprised. Corporate America does not want anyone with an east Asian or oriental face to run a company esp a large company. It harkens back to the days of the yellow peril and white eugenics where they viewed east asian orientals as being inferior subhumans even though they have demonstrated they are just as capable if not even more capable than any other race out there. if you want to know how corporate America and elite academia listen to the Purdue University chancellors speech where he openly mocks east asian languages infront of 10,000 graduates and thought it was funny and normal. Just imagine the conscious and subconscious decisions made behind closed doors. I have a friend who knew someone that was involved in the selection process of the top graduating student of uc Berkeley class and I was told that there was this unspoken rule and consensus that the person chosen not be of east Asian oriental descent because of this deeply ingrained bias about not only the yellow peril eugenics trope but also a racist idea that east asians are not well rounded or american looking enough to represent the institution at such a high level.

  2. Very interesting take coming from the group that perpetrates the most inexplicable negativity and bias towards Black people across the world over, especially when the majority have never even had a single experience with any Black person. It’s not a secret, everyone knows you all don’t get along with Black people especially but it was on the back of the Black struggle that all of these even became possible. You don’t know us, mingle with us, work with us, live with us, hire us, none of that, but you all hold all this prejudiced perceptions about our existence. What did we ever do to you? What do you even mean by “Corporate America does not want anyone with an east Asian or oriental face to run a company esp a large company”? Numbers don’t lie, Asians make up only 7% of the population, occupy over 25% of some of the most prestigious programs and colleges, take up over 80% of work visas and employment based GCs, fill up over 30% of all tech roles, especially in the Valley, have representative leaders running corporations like Microsoft and Google, and here I am reading that all of this isn’t even close to being enough. What more do you want? I’m talking about the same group that insists that the under 5% of Black people in tech is too much, that we got in because of BS policies like “affirmative action” and not because of our merit. When you achieve anything, it’s based on merit, if we do, it’s because it was a handout. Meanwhile, almost all these services are blocked in Asian countries like China and India. All I see here is the most hypocritical adaptations of greed and selfishness and nothing more, but you want it all right? Go ahead and take it all.

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