May 11, 2017

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, an opportunity to recognize the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the US. The annual commemoration also serves as a reminder that, unfortunately, workplace discrimination against Asian Americans is still alive.

A recent case comes out of California, the state with the largest Asian population. A data analysis firm has agreed to pay nearly $1.7 million to settle allegations it discriminated against Asians applying for engineering positions at one of its facility, according to the US Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

The OFCCP said the firm’s hiring and selection process violated Executive Order 11246, which prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or national origin.  

Biased employee-referral system
The company routinely eliminated Asian applicants in the résumé-screening and telephone-interviewing phases, despite their being as qualified as white applicants, according to the complaint. The OFCCP also alleged that the company hired a majority of applicants from a discriminatory employee-referral system designed to shut out Asians.

Under the terms of the settlement, the company will pay $1,659,434 in back wages and other monetary relief – including the value of stock options – to the affected individuals and extend job offers to eight eligible Asian candidates. In addition, the company is required to conduct anti-discrimination training for hiring managers and supervisors.

New national origin discrimination guidance
Organizations that are not federal contractors or subcontractors must comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees because of their ethnicity, accent, national origin or culture.

In a  previous post,  we discussed the EEOC’s new enforcement guidance on national origin discrimination, which includes a list of “promising practices” to help employers and workers better understand their responsibilities and reduce the risk of Title VII violations.
Some examples are:

  • Creating  job descriptions and advertisements that do not contain language that show bias for or against applicants of a particular national origin
  • Reviewing all aspects of the recruitment and employment process, including policies and practices that screen out qualified individuals based on their ethnicity, accent or national origin
  • Conducting compliance training to increase employee awareness of behavior that may discriminate against individuals based on their national origin or race
  • Enforcing hiring policies that comply with all local, state and federal regulations and equal employment opportunity laws

Traliant Insight
This settlement is an expensive example of what can go wrong when companies systematically discriminate against individuals because of their ethnicity or country of origin. Employers can help eliminate unfair and illegal recruiting and hiring practices by training all employees on anti-discrimination policies and procedures, and addressing national origin discrimination in their organization’s Code of Conduct.