Coronavirus and Discrimination at Work

Lately, it is impossible to turn on the news without hearing about the spread of Coronavirus.  Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has caused Americans and people all over the world to flock to get masks, prompted governments to restrict travel, and cruise lines to quarantine passengers.  There have even been rumors of cancelling the 2020 Summer Olympics games, set to be held in Tokyo, Japan.  Unfortunately, all of the hysteria around Coronavirus has also led to people subjecting Asian Americans and people of Asian descent to discrimination.

Incidents of National Origin Discrimination

Coronavirus is believed to have originated somewhere in China.  Generally, the place of origin of a virus or outbreak is important for determining how to combat its spread and develop vaccines.  However, some people have used this information as a license to commit hate crimes or otherwise discriminate against Asian Americans or people of Asian descent.  Some of the incidents include a physical assault on a New York subway and increased difficulty getting hotel accommodations.  The incidents have gotten so bad that Asians worldwide have started #IamNotAVirus to document the acts of racism and xenophobia.

How will Coronavirus Affect the Workplace?

To date, I have not seen any incidents of Coronavirus-fueled workplace racism, but I would not be surprised if we do soon.  This is especially true with the surge in conference cancellations  fueled by fears that Coronavirus will become a global pandemic.  The Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) has issued guidance on how employers should handle Coronavirus.  The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (“EEOC”) has also added another layer to Coronavirus, by reminding employers that individuals with disabilities may require reasonable accommodations during a pandemic.

Discriminated Against Because of Coronavirus?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin.  This would apply if a company were to prevent an employee of Asian descent the opportunity to attend a conference or terminate employment due to an irrational fear of Coronavirus.  Title VII would also make it illegal for employers to suggest that employees of Asian descent, “go back to their country”. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against because of Coronavirus, contact me and schedule a free initial consultation!

Coronavirus, Discrimination, and the WorkplaceClick To Tweet

James J. Hux is the Owner and Sole Attorney at Hux Law Firm, LLC. His practice areas include employment discriminationpersonal injury, and general civil litigation throughout the State of Ohio.