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EEOC Urges Employers to Mind Bias Against Asians During Pandemic

March 26, 2020, 9:59 PM

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is calling on employers and workers to “create respectful workplaces,” as reports emerge on the “mistreatment and harassment of Asian Americans and other people of Asian descent” in reaction to the novel coronavirus.

“In the workplace, these actions can result in unlawful discrimination on the basis [of] national origin or race,” EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon said in a statement. “Amidst the challenges we are all facing during these uncertain times, the anti-discrimination laws the EEOC enforces are as vital as ever.”

The federal agency that enforces the nation’s workplace anti-discrimination laws made the statement two days after President Donald Trump announced he’d stop calling Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, a “Chinese virus.” In response to criticism over the phrase, he previously said the term wasn’t racist and was a description of the virus’s geographic origin.

The EEOC has previously spoken out against targeted workplace discrimination and harassment in the wake of a global event. After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the EEOC tracked race, national origin, and religious discrimination charges filed by Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Sikh workers, or those perceived to be.

“The EEOC urges employers and employees to be mindful of instances of harassment, intimidation, or discrimination in the workplace and to take action to prevent or correct this behavior,” Dhillon said. “Our collective efforts to create respectful workplaces for all our nation’s workers, even during these trying times, will enable us to emerge from this crisis stronger and more united.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com

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