Survey examines discrimination based on caste systems

Some Arizona residents may have heard of a caste system that exists in some South Asian countries, and a survey indicates that some low-caste people have continued to experience discrimination after coming to the United States. However, the survey is not without controversy.

One critic said the survey, which a South Asian American human rights startup called Equality Lab commissioned, reinforced stereotypes about Hindus and is not relevant to third- or fourth-generation immigrants. However, others say it is important to look at how the caste system continues to function in the United States and that it becomes an issue anywhere there is a sizable South Asian community.

About 1,200 people who worked in jobs ranging from factories to tech responded to the survey. Among the lowest caste members, more than 60 percent said they had experienced discrimination at work and more than 40 percent reported discrimination in education. Physical assault was reported by 25 percent. Discrimination could include being made to sit elsewhere because of caste, being attacked with slurs or being unable to date or marry a person of another caste. Unfortunately, most Americans are unaware of the dynamics around caste systems, and this can make it more difficult to recognize and pursue discrimination cases.

People who believe they are facing workplace discrimination might want to consult an attorney. Discrimination based on characteristics such as national origin, race and religion is prohibited in most cases. In the case of caste-based discrimination, people might discuss with an attorney whether this might also be considered a Title VII violation and how the discrimination should be documented and reported. One concern people often have about reporting discrimination is that they will face retaliation although this is also not permitted.

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