On February 21, 2023, the Seattle City Council added caste to the city’s anti-discrimination laws, becoming the first U.S. city to ban caste discrimination and the first in the world to pass such a law outside South Asia. While the law seemingly only impacts employment practices in Seattle, employers outside of Seattle with large South Asian populations among their workforces should take note as other jurisdictions have begun to follow Seattle’s lead.
The Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) finalized revised regulations that implemented Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) in June of 2020. This section prohibits discrimination within health programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance based on race, color, sex, age, disability, and national origin. In comparison to the Obama-era regulations issued in 2016, the new final rule does away with gender identity and sexual orientation nondiscrimination protections not only under Section 1557, but under ten other federal regulations as well. This also includes a roll back of certain health insurance coverage protections for transgender individuals.
As President Donald Trump continues to deliver on his promise to deregulate, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has been instrumental in reversing Obama-era regulations. President Trump, who made his fortune in real estate development, has a checkered past when it comes to fair housing and discrimination. Now his administration is working to cut funding to HUD and unwind many fair housing and discrimination rules. Administration proponents say this is a necessary step to fix a broken and corrupt bureaucracy, while many advocates have expressed concern over the government scaling back enforcement of fair housing laws. Any reform effort should seek to balance concerns about bureaucracy with the vital missions of fair discrimination-free housing, inclusive communities, and civil rights.