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Discrimination in the Time of Coronavirus

Disturbingly, as America comes to grips with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, numerous reports have emerged that some people are lashing out against people of Asian descent blaming them for the virus and its spread.

No national emergency, however severe, could possibly ever justify such senseless racism and bigotry. If this reported behavior carries over into the workplace, and employers discriminate against Asian Americans by, for example, disproportionately terminating them, cutting their hours, or otherwise treating them less favorably (as compared to non-Asian Americans), they likely are in violation of both state and federal anti-discrimination law, which both cover race and national origin as protected classes.

Workers should be aware, however, that not everything that comes off as racist or bigoted will automatically give rise to a successful claim of employment discrimination. Stray remarks, for example, by a low level employee without any decision-making authority may not be enough to sustain a claim absent a showing of management knowledge and inaction of the behavior. If you're being treated badly and believe anti-Asian racism is the cause, you may consider speaking with an employment lawyer before taking further action.

Although many courts, including both state and federal courts in Illinois, have reduced their operations and moved many deadlines, there has yet to be any announcement changing the statute of limitations or extending the deadline to file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Since the charge filing deadline is only 300 days, if you've been discriminated against, time remains of the essence even during the crisis. For now anyways.

Stay safe everyone! And, now more than ever, please please please treat people with kindness, respect, and understanding. Lashing out will only make a bad situation worse.

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