California Bans Employment Discrimination by Caste

A first, this could have serious implications for H-1B

By David North on September 8, 2023

The California legislature, by a thumping majority, has passed legislation banning employment discrimination on the basis of caste. It will be the first law of its kind in the nation.

Who objects to this? Big business? Labor unions? The bankers?

No, none of the above; the objectors are Hindu organizations, presumably led by high-caste Indians, who say that the bill, not yet signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, will produce anti-Indian discrimination.

This argument strikes me as totally specious because the discrimination is within the Indian community. While an Indian employer (or HR person) may notice that the job applicant is from one of the scheduled classes (we do not use “untouchable” anymore), the non-Hindu decision-makers won’t have a clue as to the caste identity of the job applicant. And could care less.

How can one discriminate against someone on a variable that is completely hidden from the decision-maker? You cannot.

Unfortunately, the matter of caste is known to other Hindus; one substantial clue in many cases is the applicants’ very name. Some names relate to the lower castes, and some do not. Why all lower-caste Indians in the States have not changed their names to neutral Indian ones is a mystery to me. There are other clues to caste that are evident to upper-caste Hindus but are not known to me, nor to the great mass of none-subcontinent employers.

One of the reasons that this bill is so important is the way that people of Indian heritage have emerged as the dominant class in hiring decisions in the high-tech industry, particularly in the part that employs H1-B aliens, as we have reported recently.

The CalMatters article linked above reports that there will be state-wide hunger strike by the bill’s supporters until Governor Newsom signs the bill “to remind the state that Californians have lost their jobs due to caste discrimination; have been unhoused due to caste discrimination; and have been harmed irrevocably by physical, sexual, and verbal violence”.

It will be interesting to see whether the hunger strike will be noticed by the non-Indian media.

For more on caste discrimination in the U.S. generally, see this from the Harvard Law Review.

An Interesting Non-Discriminatory Tool. How can an organization avoid racial or gender discrimination in hiring? Here’s one way.

I have a nephew who is a professional musician; he plays the French horn. He told me that when he was trying out for jobs with major symphonies there would be part of the hiring process in which the candidates would all play the same bit of music, one at a time, while being hidden from the judges by screens.

Could there be a part of the tech hiring process in which all the candidates are given the same computer-related problem to be solved and a random number? Then the solutions could be graded with reference only to that number. This would produce a ranking of the applicants that could not be influenced by the hiring authorities’ whims about race, gender, age, or caste.

The author is grateful to an informant for telling him of the legislation.