Can My Employer Treat Me Differently Because I’m Asian or from Another Country During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian-Americans have found themselves subjects of xenophobia and racism. In addition to a myriad of anecdotal instances of xenophobia, San Francisco State University discovered a 50 percent rise in COVID-19 anti-Asian discrimination from Feb. 9 to March 7, 2020.

Last month, EEOC Chair, Janet Dhillon, issued a statement urging employers to be mindful of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation of Asian employees. In other words, employers cannot treat their employees differently because they are Asian or of Asian descent, and should ensure their Asian employees are not mistreated by others at work. This is, however, simply a restatement of Federal and State law that prohibit discrimination based on race and/or national origin.

However, if the CDC or other state or local public health officials recommend a quarantine period when returning from specified locations, an employer may ask whether its employees are returning from these specified locations. The CDC recently advised those who have travelled internationally in the last 14 days to stay at home for 14 days, and specifically advises, “Do not go to work.” Thus, your employer could ask if you had travelled to China, or any other country in Asia, in the last 14 days, and if you did travel, may ask you to go home. This policy, however, applies to all employees, and is not a blank check to discriminate against Asian employees.

Much like COVID-19, racism is a virus that spreads rapidly. No matter what we look like, we are all in this fight together and we all have a common goal: to beat this virus and protect millions of lives.

Are You Being Mistreated at Work?

There is no excuse for violating your federally protected right to be free from experiencing discrimination at work. If you are being mistreated on the basis of your race, skin color, national origin, or because of another protected characteristic, you can hold your employer legally accountable.

For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with an attorney who can help, contact Haeggquist & Eck, LLP online or call us at (619) 342-8000.

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