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The Cal State Ban On Caste Discrimination And The Ensuing Controversy


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent pieces of federal and state legislation have attempted to ban employment discrimination based on an employee’s physical characteristics, family background, beliefs, and aspects of the employee’s personal life unrelated to work.  The language in statutes and case law has expanded the list of protected characteristics over time.  The California State University system updated its policies to include caste as a protected characteristic, in an apparent attempt to close a loophole that it believed could cause certain applicants to be excluded and employees to be mistreated.  Specifically, it believed that employees might face discrimination not because of their race or ethnicity (South Asian), their religion (Hindu), or their national origin (India or Indian diaspora), but because of which Indian or Hindu caste from which they were descended.  Two university employees filed a lawsuit, alleging that this policy constitutes discrimination against Hindus and is based on unfair stereotypes about India and Hinduism.  If you are facing discrimination at work based on what you perceive as your coworkers’ intentional misunderstanding of your cultural background, contact a Los Angeles discrimination and harassment lawyer.

Is the Ban on Caste Discrimination Just Another Case of Discrimination Against Hindus?

If people who have not lived in India and are not of South Asian descent have ever heard of the Indian caste system, they probably know almost nothing about it.  Castes are social groups that were historically associated with certain occupations and certain regions.  Most surnames in modern India are related to a family’s caste, and while the caste affiliation of a person’s surname would often make the person’s caste background obvious to other people from India, it would not have any such association for non-Indians, who may or may not realize that it is an Indian last name.  Modern Indian law recognizes more than 3,000 castes, and affirmative action laws prohibit discrimination against historically disadvantaged castes.

Sunil Kumar and Praveen Sinha are employees of the Cal State University system, and they have filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the university system in response to its ban on caste discrimination.  They allege that the policy is based on negative stereotypes about Hinduism and Indian culture and that it perpetuates these stereotypes.  Meanwhile, supporters of the caste discrimination ban say that caste discrimination is a persistent problem in U.S. work environments.  According to the Pew Research Center, 90 percent of Hindus in the United States were born outside the U.S.  Dheepa Sundaram, a professor at the University of Denver says that, although some Hindus living in the U.S. do not consider caste a part of their identity, they still face harassment at work because of it, usually from Hindu coworkers of other castes.

Speak With a Los Angeles Employment Discrimination Lawyer

A Los Angeles employment discrimination lawyer can help you if your employer mistreated you or singled you out based on your religion or cultural background.  Contact Litigation, P.C. in Los Angeles, California to discuss your situation or call (424)284-2401.


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