We as Americans have inherent rights at birth and our standing as citizens born in the nation is grounded on equality. But this is not always the case in other societies where social adherence to a caste-based system is followed either explicitly or overtly.
What is the caste system?
The caste system is one in which some people are deemed born to be higher-class citizens, and those deemed born to be lower-class citizens are given little to no opportunity to move between social classes.
Citizens from higher castes enjoy social benefits and sometimes protections under the law that citizens from lower castes are not afforded. It is a system that is highly prevalent in some South Asian nations and has been for hundreds of years, affecting its citizens’ daily lives.
Some higher-caste people move to the United States, bringing their concept of the caste system with them either intentionally or unintentionally. While the United States has no outward caste system and although discrimination based on caste is now against the law in some South Asian nations, people that still harbor the concept of the caste system may unintentionally bring these ideals into the workplace.
This means that people in the United States who would have been born into a lower caste in other societies are being discriminated against at work by those who would have been born into a higher caste in those societies. Some issues these lower-caste workers currently face in the workplace can include violations of wage and hour laws, being excluded from workplace activities and harassment in the workplace.
A California Senate bill was introduced earlier in March that would make caste a protected category under state employment law. This would mean employers could not discriminate against workers or job applicants based on their caste and workers cannot be harassed in the workplace based on their caste. A similar measure was passed in Seattle in February.
Not all are on board with the bill. Some believe the bill is anti-Hindu and xenophobic. But the author of the bill believes that bigotry and classism is a problem in many communities and religions, not just Hinduism.
In the end, the author of this bill believes it is a “human rights” bill. While there needs to be more communication across the United States about the caste system in other nations and how it affects workers, many agree that all workers in the United States deserve safe and welcoming workplaces where they can reach their highest potential.