On February 21, 2023, Seattle City Council passed a law to amend anti-discrimination protections in employment, public places, housing, and contracting to include caste as a protected class. Seattle’s Mayor signed the law, making Seattle the first city in the United States to ban caste discrimination.

Seattle is home to immigrants and refugees from around the world. People impacted by caste discrimination come from many places, including Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Pacific regions. The City of Seattle supports the right of everyone to live, work, and visit our city without facing discrimination.

What is caste?

Caste is a system of rigid social stratification characterized by hereditary status, endogamy, and social barriers sanctioned by custom, law, or religion. It is a system that places people into social groups at birth that can determine their opportunities in life. It can also result in abuse and violence between groups.

Is caste discrimination limited to countries in Southeast Asia?

No. Caste discrimination can occur anywhere in the world.

When does this law take effect?

March 25, 2023.

What does caste discrimination look like?

An example of caste discrimination could be a landlord who refuses to rent to an applicant based on assumptions about that person’s caste.

Another example could be an employee who identifies as being from an oppressed caste being paid less compared to their dominant caste coworkers.

What should I do if I have been discriminated against because of my caste?

You will be asked to provide information about what happened.  

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The Seattle Office for Civil Rights (SOCR) works to advance civil rights and end barriers to equity. We enforce laws against illegal discrimination in employment, housing, public places, and contracting within Seattle.