Asian Descent and Discrimination

asian descentWhen fellow police officers made fun of Asian accents and disparaged the Asian culture and community, five law enforcement officers of Asian descent finally had enough. The offended officers, a group of current and former employees of the San Gabriel Police Department, (SGPD) filed a lawsuit against the department. If you are facing a similar dilemma, you deserve strong legal counsel.

Asian Descent – Specific Claims

According to the suit, the discrimination and harassment had been going on for decades, and individuals of Asian descent felt intimidated and unable to report the problem. When two individuals did stand up for themselves, they allegedly experienced retaliation and were rebuffed when they applied for various job assignments. Because the department did not satisfactorily deal with this culture of harassment, a lawsuit became the only way to seek redress.

According to the plaintiffs, inappropriate and, indeed, illegal discrimination and harassment was a daily part of the job. Included in the list of offenses:

  • Joking about physical features of Asian people;
  • Using racial slurs;
  • Making fun of Asian accents;
  • Making flippant remarks related to Asian stereotypes regarding intellect;

Not only did the rank and file participate in this harassment; managers were regular offenders, as well. Furthermore, Asian officers state that their work was scrutinized more closely than their colleagues, and they received harsher disciplinary action than non-Asian peers for similar infractions. This is particularly disturbing considering the fact that the SGPD serves a primarily Asian community; where over 60% of the population is of Asian descent. (The department reports that only 14% of its full-time officers are of Asian descent).

The Roots of Discrimination Towards Those of Asian Descent

Researchers connect discriminatory behavior with perceptions of threats to economic well-being and security. Beyond those kinds of deep-seated fears, media portrayals of Asian Americans are frequently far from favorable, making Asian men appear to be submissive, and even docile.  Asian stereotypes are reinforced, and their human emotion and values are disregarded. Experts link these attitudes to discrimination for Asians in this country, pointing to the fact that Asian Americans have been the target of a rising number of hate crimes in recent years.

Federal Law

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race or ethnic origin. In the case of the San Gabriel Police Department, the implications go beyond the impacts of discrimination on employees. Some wonder at the impact of such attitudes on the community at large. Surely, it is not inconceivable that problems go far beyond employment issues in this case. [Read more…]

National Origin Discrimination

national origin discriminationNational origin discrimination in the workplace. Angry rhetoric and fear surrounding immigration are all over the current news headlines. What impact does it have on individuals from foreign countries, particularly those countries called out as dangerous? With all the debate on immigration, many individuals who have legal status in California are worried that they are bound to face national origin discrimination in the workplace. If you believe your national origin has impacted employer’s decisions toward you, you may need an experienced employment attorney.

Legal protections exist for individuals from every country. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was designed to protect both applicants and employees from employment discrimination, whether they or their ancestors hail from France or Somalia, Australia or Sudan.

What Does National Origin Discrimination Look Like?

This type of discrimination, which is based on a person’s heritage, or cultural, physical or linguistic attributes associated with a particular national origin, can display itself in many ways:

  • Refusing to recruit or hire workers based on surname, traditional attire, or nationality;
  • Requiring workers to stay behind the scenes, or out of the public eye due to appearance or national origin;
  • Segregating workers of one background from those of another;
  • Harassing or teasing workers about their food, attire, habits, etc.;
  • Disciplining workers more frequently or severely based on nationality;
  • Failing to provide equal wages and benefits, or failing to promote due to national origin;
  • Transferring, or refusing to transfer, based on national origin;
  • Terminating or laying off employees based on national origin.

National Origin Discrimination – Overlapping Issues

Multiple issues frequently intersect when discrimination based on national origin occurs. For instances, prejudice toward someone of Somali descent may be predicated on issues surrounding religion. Perhaps discrimination associated with Asian ancestry may be connected to racial sentiments. Gender, religion, race, color, and national origin may all be involved in a single discrimination complaint.

Inappropriate Job Screening

Practices that create a disparate impact on particular groups by screening out individuals on the basis of national origin are unlawful. The elimination of obstacles that either inadvertently or purposefully limit applicants based on national origin must be removed. Even when recruiters or temporary job placement agencies are involved, equal access to employment is required.

Conflicting Motives in Employment Decisions

Often employers make decisions based on multiple factors, and contend that a given outcome would have occurred regardless of national origin. While there may be merit to such a claim, it is incumbent upon an employer to make this showing.  If the employer can make a case for the employment decisions, the employer may still be on the hook for declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as attorney’s fees. [Read more…]

Awarding Court Costs and Labor Attorney Fees in Employment Discrimination Cases

labor attorney feesClients involved in employment discrimination cases will often ask, “If I win, will the other side have to pay my labor attorney fees, or my court costs?” The answer often depends on whether the client is the employer or the employee.

Federal Labor Cases

In federal actions involving Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there is an “asymmetrical rule.” If the plaintiff wins, he or she will automatically receive compensation from the other party for his or her attorney’s fees. But a winning defendant does not automatically receive compensation for attorney’s fees. A winning defendant will only receive such compensation if the court finds that the plaintiff’s claim was “frivolous, unreasonable or groundless, or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so.”

If you’re an employer, you may be thinking that seems awfully unfair. Why is this the rule? The precedent is the result of a Supreme Court decision, Christiansburg vs. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The ruling held that “Assessing attorney’s fees against plaintiffs simply because they do not finally prevail would substantially add to the risks inhering in most litigation and would undercut the efforts of Congress to promote the vigorous enforcement of the provisions of Title VII.” The Court was concerned that victims of discrimination would be reluctant to come forward if they knew that they would be liable for potentially huge legal fees if they lost.

California Employment Cases

Of course, not all employment discrimination claims involve Title VII. California has its own standards on court cost issues for cases involving the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Unfortunately, these standards have not always been clear.

Section 1032 of the California Code of Civil Procedure states, “Except as otherwise expressly provided by statute, a prevailing party is entitled as a matter of right to recover costs in any action or proceeding.” However, Government Code Section 12695 states that in FEHA cases, “the court, in its discretion, may award to the prevailing party…reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including expert witness fees.”

On May 5, 2015, the Supreme Court of California cleared up any confusion as to whether Sect. 12695 is an exception to Sect. 1032. In the case of Williams vs. Chino Valley Independent Fire District, the Court held that Sect. 12695 is an exception – and thus a prevailing defendant in a FEHA case should not automatically be awarded courts costs (or attorney’s fees).

The ruling states that the standard used by the U.S. Supreme Court in Christiansburg should apply to FEHA parties. In the words of the court:

“A prevailing plaintiff should ordinarily receive his or her costs and attorney fees unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust. A prevailing defendant, however, should not be awarded fees and costs unless the court finds that the action was objectively without foundation when brought, or the plaintiff continues to litigate after it clearly became so.”

Concerned About Labor And Employment Cases Costs and Fees?

If you have any questions about the ruling, or about the prospect of paying your opposing parties’ court costs or attorney’s fees, you may wish to contact the Santa Rosa employment and labor law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. You can call or email us today to schedule a consultation.


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