What is Caste Discrimination?

Nov 15 2023

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh.

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda. What are we talking about today?

DeMatteis: I thought we would talk about caste discrimination. I heard this come up in a recent New York Times podcast. Caste discrimination has been outlawed in both India and Nepal for decades, but it’s making some waves in the U.S. What can you tell us about that?

Goodbaum: Well, for those who don’t know, caste, spelled c-a-s-t-e, is a system of social and religious hierarchy that is, or was, prominent in the Hindu religion, which is the largest religion in South Asia. You might have heard the term “untouchables.” That is a derogatory term that refers to members of the lowest caste in certain Hindu societies.

And as you said, caste discrimination — discrimination by people of a higher caste against members of the lower caste — has been outlawed in countries in South Asia for more than 70 years. And now there are calls in the U.S. to do the same – that is, to add caste to the other categories of protected characteristics, like sex and race and national origin and disability status, religion — I could go on — that are already protected in our laws in the areas not only of employment but also in housing and public accommodations and others.

The folks who are advocating for these laws say the discrimination is real, that caste discrimination is a thing that occurs; and they want these new laws to draw attention to this issue. And they were able to push a law through — these advocates — through the California legislature and put a bill banning caste discrimination on the desk of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

But those who oppose these bills, including the one in California, say that this type of discrimination is actually pretty rare, that it’s all already covered by existing laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of, among other things, national origin and religion, and that it actually would result in discrimination, not impede discrimination. And that’s because it would paint South Asians, and Hindus in particular, as people who only care about caste and suggest that they are a bigoted group. And it seems like those folks who oppose these sorts of laws were able to make their case persuasively enough to Governor Newsom that he vetoed the legislation in California.

So, there are a few cities or counties that have bans on caste discrimination. We don’t yet in Connecticut, but what Connecticut employees who think they might be experiencing caste discrimination need to know is that likely Connecticut law already prohibits caste discrimination. And so if you think you were subjected to caste discrimination, consider reaching out to an employment lawyer or filing a claim with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

DeMatteis: Really good to know. Thank you, Josh. As a quick aside, we see so many of these laws popping up in California first. Why?

Goodbaum: California is really on the forefront of protections for employees in a variety of ways. So that’s something to be admired for us who represent employees. And it’s interesting to look to California because what California is doing now, many other states might be doing a few years later and maybe the country will follow, who knows?

DeMatteis: Almost an insight as to what’s to come in Connecticut. Thank you so much, Josh, and thank you for watching. Take care.

Share this Post

josh goodbaum discussing caste discrimination

About the Author

Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, P.C.

Advocating for Employees
since 1977

Best Lawyers

Let Us Review Your Case

    We will respond to your message promptly. Although we will keep your message strictly confidential, please note that contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

    Client Experiences

    During a very difficult employment situation, I was referred to Joe Garrison. Recognizing the volatile and time sensitive nature of my employment situation, Mr. Garrison met with me immediately (on the weekend no less). He listened to the details of my case, was able to think through possible creative solutions to offer the employer, and was responsive to my myriad of questions. He understood my concerns about litigation versus settlement, and he worked to find the best resolution possible. I am grateful to have had his support at a very difficult time. —J.C., New Haven, CT

    You will never meet a more knowledgeable and compassionate professional than Steve Fitzgerald. My employment situation was very complex, and Attorney Fitzgerald kept me focused while remaining extremely adept and “thinking on his feet.” Should the need present itself again, I would never seek anyone else’s counsel regarding employment issues. I cannot recommend him highly enough. — J.R., New Haven, CT

    Nina Pirrotti provided outstanding legal advice and was trustworthy, dependable, and responsive. From the start, I was confident that her knowledge and experience would obtain favorable results. On a more personal note, I enjoyed working with her and her staff and felt I was included in every part of the process. The dedication, concern, and interest in me as a client was greatly appreciated, and Nina has earned my highest recommendation. — J.H., Monroe, CT

    I recently found myself in need of a lawyer in handling a dispute with my former employer. I was fortunate to retain Josh Goodbaum as my legal counsel. His legal skills knowledge and professionalism shone through in every step of the process resulting in a very positive result. I highly recommend Josh if you find yourself in need of legal counsel. — S.R., Guilford, CT

    When I go to a lawyer for advice, I am usually anxious, particularly the first meeting. Amanda DeMatteis was clear in describing my options and immediately set me at ease. Realistic assessment is important, and Amanda was clear as to how to set up the case and the direction she felt we should go. I had total confidence in her abilities and knew I was being well represented against a large corporation. More importantly, we were successful! —N.M., Haddam, CT

    Advocating for Employees since 1977

    American Law Institute Super Lawyers American College of Trial Lawyers Best Lawyers The College of Labor and Employment Lawyers
    Back to Top
    (203) 815-1716