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California State Senate Considers Bill to Outlaw Caste Discrimination

16 Aug

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Update Applicable to:

All employers with employees in California

What happened?

On July 5, 2023, the California Senate voted 34-1 in favor of clarifying existing law by defining “ancestry” to include “caste” as protected within the state’s anti-discrimination statutes.

What are the details?

The California Senate voted 34-1 in favor of defining “ancestry” to include “caste” as a protected category in the state’s anti-discrimination statutes. Initially proposed as a separate category, the bill was amended to incorporate caste under “ancestry,” aligning it with existing law. The bill will be evaluated by the Assembly Appropriations Committee after the summer recess.

Definition and Scope of “Caste”

The bill defines “caste” as an individual’s perceived position in a system of social stratification based on inherited status. It may involve factors like restrictions on altering inherited status, segregation, discrimination, and social exclusion. The bill does not specify particular countries or regions of origin for caste systems, making it inclusive for individuals from any country.

The Issue of Caste Discrimination

State Senator Aisha Wahab, the bill’s author, cites reports of caste-based discrimination as a growing concern in the United States due to increasing diversity. While Seattle, WA, became the first jurisdiction to add caste as a protected category, there are no federal or other state laws explicitly prohibiting caste discrimination. However, other jurisdictions and institutions have considered or enacted similar rules.

Caste and Existing Anti-Discrimination Laws

Caste-based discrimination might potentially fall under existing protected classes like national origin, race, ancestry, and religious discrimination outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state anti-discrimination laws. The inclusion of caste as a subcategory of “ancestry” in Senate Bill 403 supports this argument.

Conclusion

The California Senate’s vote to include “caste” within the definition of “ancestry” in anti-discrimination laws marks a significant step towards recognizing and preventing caste-based discrimination. Although the immediate impact is limited to California, other jurisdictions may follow suit. Employers need to be aware of these developments and take appropriate measures to address caste discrimination in the workplace.

For more information, please see the links below:

Bill SB 403

Law Firm Article 1, Article 2, Article 3

What do employers need to do?

If the bill becomes law, California employers would need to update their policies and training programs to address caste discrimination. The sensitivity and complexity of the caste system warrant careful consideration, and employers may seek guidance from experienced employment counsel.

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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