Fears of coronavirus contagion lead to discrimination

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You can’t look at the news without seeing the latest update on the Covid-19 or “coronavirus.” To add to the panic, there’s a lot of misinformation going around on the internet.

There’s also a lot of racism and ignorance surfacing. In fact, discriminatory and outrageous reactions to the virus are spreading faster than the virus itself. For example:

  • A New York woman was assaulted and accused of being diseased simply because she was wearing a face mask in public.
  • In Los Angeles, a man loudly denounced all Chinese people as “filthy” and claimed that all diseases originate in China.
  • In Indiana, two men were interrogated by a hotel employee because they were mistaken for Chinese and told they had to be quarantined.
  • Some Chinese restaurants are reporting that they’ve lost as much as 80% of their business in the wake of public panic over the virus.

While these may be startling examples of racial discrimination, they’re probably not the only ones that are happening. If you’re Asian-American (of any kind), you may face discrimination and fear from your co-workers simply because they are panicked about the possibility of contracting a virus. For example, you could be intentionally isolated by your co-workers as they refuse to work with you, sit next to you in meetings or handle any papers that have been in your possession. People who are on immunosuppressants and have to wear masks during flu season and the like, may also face harassment and discrimination from their co-workers or customers.

It’s management’s job to make sure that these things don’t happen. Discrimination based on your race, national origin or disability is never okay — not even when a virus is going around. If you find your workplace has turned hostile over fears of contagion, find out what legal steps you can take.