Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On October 7, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed proposed bill SB 403, which, as previously discussed, sought to ban discrimination based on caste under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), Unruh Civil Rights Act, and California Education Code. Governor Newsom’s message called this change “unnecessary” because these statutes already prohibit discrimination based on several categories, including sex, race, religion, disability, ancestry,1 etc. and state law specifies these statutes should be “liberally construed.”
Earlier this year, Seattle, Washington became the first jurisdiction in the United States to ban discrimination based on caste by specifically adding “caste” to the list of protected classes set forth in Municipal Code 14.04.
The city of Fresno became the second jurisdiction in the United States to ban discrimination based on caste. On September 28, 2023, the City Council unanimously voted to add two new protected categories into its municipal code: caste, and indigeneity. A joint initiative between Sikh and Oaxacan residents created the push for this change.
Other jurisdictions may follow suit. Employers may want to consider amending their policies and training programs to incorporate prohibitions of discrimination based on caste. Given the nuances and sensitivity related to the ongoing discussions about caste, employers may also consider incorporating training on anti-caste discrimination into their regular EEO programming. As always, it is wise to discuss these changes with experienced employment counsel.
1 SB 403 sought to expand the definition of “ancestry” in the statutes to include “caste,” which it defines as “an individual’s perceived position in a system of social stratification on the basis of inherited status.”