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Study examines impact of caste discrimination at work

Whether working in Silicon Valley or at a California restaurant, South Asian Americans may face various types of workplace discrimination. They may face discrimination from members of the majority or other groups on the basis of national origin, religion or race, and these types of workplace discrimination issues are likely to be the most common. On the other hand, another experience that South Asians may have on the job in the United States is often little-recognized: caste discrimination.

Caste stratification and hierarchy may have ancient roots, but it has also been the target of campaigners in South Asia for decades working to achieve justice and equality and uplift the situation of people in lower castes. However, in the United States, open discussion of caste experience is less common, including the issue of how caste impacts South Asian Americans in the workplace. As larger numbers of South Asians come to the United States, including members of lower castes, they may be more likely to face discrimination from other members of the community on the job.

Dalits, members of the lowest caste, reported widespread experiences with discrimination in a survey conducted by Equality Labs, a South Asian American human rights organization. The results indicated that 66 percent of Dalits had experienced workplace discrimination in the U.S., while 41 percent had been discriminated against in education and 25 percent had been physically attacked. It has been more difficult to pursue claims in these cases, as caste discrimination can represent a complex blend of racial, religious and national identities.

Whether people have experienced caste discrimination or another form of discrimination at work based on their gender, age, disability, race, national origin or other protected status, an employment attorney can help them to seek justice. The first step would be to address it through workplace channels. If the behavior persists, filing a claim with the EEOC might be in order.

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