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National Origin Discrimination & COVID-19

As U.S. workplaces reopen amongst the pandemic, we are seeing a particularly distasteful trend of treating workers of East Asian (particularly Chinese) origin negatively due to perceived fears surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Incidents of racism against Chinese-Americans and other East Asian immigrants from nearby areas have notably risen in the months since the pandemic has begun. If you believe you have experienced national origin discrimination in your workplace, you need to know that you have options to fight against it.

New Situation, Same Rules

Despite facing increased exposure to the virus and other communicable diseases, the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) estimates that 2 million Asian-American and Pacific Islander workers are at risk for xenophobic attacks on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic. Claims of discrimination from Asian-American workers have risen due to misguided rumors around the origin of the virus. Many people also falsely believe that being East Asian increases one’s likelihood of being a carrier of the virus.

Despite the relatively new framework surrounding these claims, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been quick to reiterate that the country’s antidiscrimination law still applies. Behavior such as terminating people due to their race or allowing harassment based on perceived fear of COVID-19 exposure is likely to violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its prohibition on national origin discrimination.

Taking First Steps

While employers do have a duty to try and protect their employees, they can best do so by adhering to guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), rather than trying to take things into their own hands. An employer may not necessarily be liable for harassment by a worker, but they are more likely to be on the hook if you can establish that they knew about and tolerated a hostile work environment instead of taking steps to stop the poor treatment you were enduring.

The first step you should take, if you suspect that you have been discriminated against due to your national origin, is to enlist an employment discrimination lawyer. Most of the time, district courts will want you to bring your claim to either the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or to the EEOC itself before proceeding directly to court. The agency will investigate your claim and try other remedies before recommending filing suit, but dealing with either agency can be quite complex for the average person without an attorney.

Contact An Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today

In the midst of a pandemic, people are just trying to survive. Having to contend with discrimination, fear, and ignorance is something no one should have to deal with. Attorney A. Christopher Potts can help you determine the best way to get your voice heard, and to give you the best chance at justice. The firm of Hitchcock & Potts has years of experience in employment discrimination cases, and will work hard to give yours the best chance of success. Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.

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