California one step closer to ban ‘caste-based’ discrimination, could become first US state to enact such law
Supporters of the bill to believe that caste discrimination has caused problems like wage theft, bias, and sometimes harassment at work.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee in California passed a bill aimed at ‘banning caste discrimination’ on Wednesday. If this bill is passed in the Assembly, it will make California the first state in the United States to have such a law, according to local media reports. The bill, known as ‘Senate Bill 403,’ includes ‘caste as a protected category’ in the Unruh Civil Rights Act, as well as in fair housing and employment laws.
Supporters of the bill to make lower caste a protected class in California believe that caste discrimination has caused problems like wage theft, bias, and sometimes harassment at work. The bill will now go to the Appropriations Committee, where they vote on bills with financial effects. Once passed by Appropriations Committee, it will move to the Assembly floor for a complete vote.
Reactions for and against the bill
According to ABC10 report, around 15 per cent of California's population is made up of Asian Americans, as stated by the Public Policy Institute of California. Concerns have been raised within the South Asian community regarding the potential consequences of the bill, although some individuals view it as a positive step.
The report further said those who support the bill believe that it is "extremely important because caste is an issue that doesn't just affect people from Asia, but also affects Somalians, Nigerians, and Japanese."
While a board member of the Coalition of Hindus in North America, said, “The bill has the opposite intended effect and will actually make them targets for discrimination.”
Seattle is the 1st US city to ban ‘caste-discrimination’
In February this year, Seattle became the first city in the United States to prohibit caste discrimination by adding it to their anti-discrimination laws. This decision was influenced by several incidents that shed light on the existence of caste among the South Asian community in the US. These incidents included a significant case where a former employee of Cisco, a tech giant, filed a lawsuit alleging bias and discrimination based on his caste status. Additionally, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted a raid on a temple construction site in New Jersey following allegations of exploitation and mistreatment of Dalit workers.
The move to ban caste discrimination in Seattle was supported by activist-led organizations like Equality Labs, as reported by the Associated Press. However, there were opposing views from groups such as the Hindu American Foundation and the Coalition of Hindus of North America.
Prior to Seattle's decision, Brandeis University became the first US college to incorporate caste into its nondiscrimination policy in December 2019. Furthermore, the California State University System, Colby College, Brown University, and the University of California, Davis have also implemented similar measures.