Our nation continues to make progress on employee protections, and California is often a trailblazer. This was recently highlighted when the vast majority of lawmakers voted in favor of extending discrimination protections beyond race to include caste. Lawmakers approved the bill with 31 to 5 vote and, as of the writing of this post, the bill is headed to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for final approval.
Why is this bill unique?
There is no other law like it in the country. The closest comparison is a ban on caste discrimination in India. Caste discrimination is most common in South Asian cultures, such as within Hindu communities in India.
California is not the only part of the country considering such protections. Seattle passed a similar rule, though this level of protection is only available at the city level. If Gov. Newsom signs off on the bill, it will provide protection at the state level.
What does the bill do?
The bill makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual based on their caste. Examples of illegal acts would include the loss of a job and housing opportunities.
Lawmakers wrote the law to include caste within the term ancestry. The bill defines ancestry to include lineal descent and heritage as well as parentage and caste. It then defines caste as a person’s perceived position within a system of social stratification on the basis of their inherited status. The inherited status can include the restriction on marriage, segregation, discrimination, and other forms of social exclusion based on perceived status.
Although the bill has received a great deal of support, critics have voiced concern that it could unintentionally result in racial profiling targeting those of Indian descent.