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A Troubling Rise in Discrimination and Harassment toward Asian Americans in the Workplace

Anxiety about COVID-19 has challenged every individual in the U.S., but there has been a troubling rise in hostility and bigotry towards people of Asian descent in the U.S.

According to Pew Research, Asian Americans have reported a significant level of discrimination since the emergence of coronavirus earlier this year. Researchers asked respondents about specific incidents, and found that, among Asian Americans:

  • 39% said others have acted uncomfortably around them
  • 31% reported being the subject of race-based jokes or slurs
  • 26% admitted they feared being the target of a physical attack

All told, nearly four out of every 10 Asian American respondents said it is now more common for others to express racist views about people who are Asian.

Troubling Incidents on the Rise in California

This rise in anti-Asian discrimination and harassment is happening here in California as well. A group of researchers has been tracking reports of harassment and discrimination against Asian Americans across 34 counties.

Over the course of three months, starting near the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, they have tallied 832 such incidents. That’s an average of about 10 every day. Respondents said they’ve put up with racial slurs, assaults, objects being thrown at them, “insidious and incendiary” remarks and even animal abuse.

One particularly troubling finding by the group, Stop AAPI Hate, is that more than 40% of these discriminatory incidents started at a place of work. This is outrageous and it needs to stop.

Protections under California Law if You Are Harassed

California has strong protections for individuals who experience illegal discriminatory behavior at a place of business or in the workplace.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act, now more than 60 years old, prohibits businesses from discriminating against an individual based on a protected characteristic. That includes their race, color, ancestry, religion, national origin or language.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (often referred to as FEHA) offers protections for employees and job applicants, outlawing any type of discrimination or harassment based on many of the same characteristics. The law also bars an employer from retaliating against a worker that asserts their rights in response to illegal behavior.

Victims of discrimination and harassment in the workplace and at a place of business have legal recourse. Depending on the type of case, that might include financial damages, attorney’s fees, job reinstatement or mandated policy changes. In the current climate, knowing both your rights and your options is the first step toward holding wrongdoers accountable.

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