As recent events have shown, bias incidents directed at the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and people of Asian descent have been increasing. This has been a trend since at least the advent of the coronavirus pandemic.
The AAPI community and people of Asian descent are protected from job discrimination by state and federal employment law. Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibit employment discrimination based on race, national origin and other characteristics.
Asian-Americans are often treated as a “model minority,” with many people ascribing positive characteristics to them. This may seem innocent or even beneficial to outsiders, but it can be extremely problematic for people who are expected to live up to these high standards.
It’s important to remember that the AAPI community and people of Asian backgrounds are not a monolith. There are many different cultures within the Asian continent, each of which has unique characteristics. Beyond that, every individual person has a unique background and experiences. It is unfair and can be discriminatory to imply that someone is a certain way because of their Asian heritage or background.
According to the EEOC, workplace race discrimination occurs when an employer treats an applicant or an employee unfavorably based on race or personal characteristics associated with race. It can also involve treating the person unfavorably because of their marriage to or association with a particular racial group.
Title VII prohibits race discrimination in recruitment, hiring, pay, benefits, job assignments, training, promotions, termination, layoffs or any other term or condition of employment. The Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act also prohibits race discrimination in employment. Both also prohibit race-based harassment.
National origin discrimination
AAPI individuals and people of Asian descent can also face discrimination based on national origin. This involves treating job applicants or employees less favorably because they are from a particular country or region, due to their ethnicity or accent, or due to a misperception about their national origin. Title VII and the Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act forbid discrimination based on national origin, association with people of a certain national origin, or marriage to an individual from a certain national origin.
It’s important to remember that our anti-discrimination laws do not require any employer to hire someone who does not have a valid work authorization in the United States. However, all those who do have work authorizations must be treated equally. For example, it would not be lawful to have a policy of hiring only U.S. citizens and green card holders.
Now is a good time to discuss anti-Asian sentiments and how the AAPI community and people of Asian background can be protected.