‘Profound and historic’: Seattle turns into first U.S. metropolis to ban caste discrimination

‘Profound and historic’: Seattle turns into first U.S. metropolis to ban caste discrimination
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Seattle Metropolis Councilmember Kshama Sawant sponsored the laws to ban caste discrimination in Seattle. (GeekWire File Picture / Monica Nickelsburg)

Seattle lawmakers on Tuesday authorised laws to ban caste discrimination in a transfer that might influence tech staff and corporations.

The primary-in-the-nation legislation goals to deal with a social apply that’s rooted in 1000’s of years of historical past in India and different international locations.

Caste is “a system of inflexible social stratification characterised by hereditary standing, endogamy, and social limitations sanctioned by customized, legislation, or faith,” in response to the laws.

Seattle Metropolis Councilmember Kshama Sawant, who sponsored the invoice, stated staff — together with within the tech sector — face discrimination of their workplaces in Seattle and different cities across the nation.

She known as the brand new anti-discrimination legislation “profound and historic.”

“It’s a beacon to cities and states across the nation and for working individuals elsewhere to construct actions to additionally ban this horrific type of oppression,” Sawant stated.

A number of tech staff voiced help for the legislation throughout an emotional 75-minute public remark interval on the Metropolis Council assembly Tuesday. A member of the Alphabet Staff Union, which supported the invoice, stated they witnessed caste-based slurs and stated associated incidents can’t be reported because of “lack of caste safety” or “non-action” from corporations.

One other individual stated their final title and background was “continuously questioned” by a colleague at a tech startup.

Varisha Khan, a councilmember from Redmond, Wash. — residence of Microsoft — additionally spoke throughout the public remark interval.

“Over time I’ve heard tales from the caste-oppressed neighborhood dealing with discrimination with out authorized recourse, and what number of of them have needed to conceal their caste to make sure that they don’t get discriminated by dominant caste members who can act with impunity,” Khan stated. “I urge you to make civil rights historical past and vote sure.”

A majority of the audio system have been in favor of the invoice, although some requested the council to vote in opposition to it, citing complexity of the caste system.

Councilmember Sara Nelson was the lone vote in opposition to the laws. She famous the potential of “one more pricey lawsuit probably introduced by a well-resourced employer within the tech sector.”

“I’m involved that designating caste as a protected class in Seattle is probably going a reckless, pointless, and dangerous resolution to an issue about which we now have no knowledge or analysis on its prevalence in Seattle,” she stated on Tuesday.

Tech leaders previously told GeekWire that they hadn’t personally seen caste bias within the expertise neighborhood in Seattle or within the U.S.

One alleged case of caste discrimination within the tech trade has changed into a notable lawsuit in California, the place a former employee at Cisco Methods claims he was a sufferer of discrimination due to his low caste standing.

Bloomberg Law reported that the unnamed employee claimed supervisors at Cisco’s San Jose, Calif., headquarters excluded him from conferences and handed him up for promotions because of his standing as a part of the Dalit caste, thought-about the bottom rung of the hierarchical South Asian system.

The lawsuit is testing California’s anti-discrimination statute that features safety for discrimination based mostly on ancestry.

On the power of that Cisco case, staff at Google dad or mum Alphabet, below the Alphabet Staff Union label, previously called on the tech giant to use its Indian caste-based anti-discrimination coverage within the U.S, writing, “Alphabet can lead the trade and turn out to be the primary expertise firm so as to add caste as a protected class globally.”

The Fairness Lab, a nonprofit that takes on problems with inequity, present in a 2016 survey of South Asian Americans that one in 4 caste-oppressed individuals confronted bodily and verbal assault, one in three confronted schooling discrimination, and two in three confronted office discrimination.

In her 10 years on the Metropolis Council, Sawant has championed quite a lot of staff’ rights points and has taken on large tech, together with the push for a “head tax” on Amazon and different large companies. She announced last month that she received’t search re-election when her time period is up on the finish of 2023.

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