Rachel Bethel
Texas Employer Lawyer Rachel Bethel

One category of discrimination that has yet to be federally protected in the U.S. has gained attention in recent years: caste discrimination. With the ever-increasing population of South Asians in the U.S., reports of discriminatory acts based on caste have risen considerably. 

Just this year, Seattle, WA and Fresno, CA—both cities with significant South Asian populations—became the first cities in American history to ban caste discrimination. While these are great strides in the right direction, the road ahead for larger jurisdictions will be long. 

Caste Discrimination Bill Vetoed in California

Just one month ago, Governor Newsom vetoed a bill, SB 403, that would have explicitly banned caste discrimination in California. California is home to nearly a million Indian Americans and hundreds of thousands of other South Asians as well. Notably, Governor Newsom commented that the specific addition was “unnecessary,” as California had already explicitly banned discrimination based on “sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation.” South Asian civil rights activists and lawmakers vehemently disagree. 

CA State Senator Aisha Wahab was responsible for putting forth SB 403. The purpose of the bill was to include “caste” within the definition of “ancestry” and further define “caste” itself. The bill would have provided much-needed clarity on what caste is and how it manifests into a basis for discrimination here in the U.S. Governor Newsom rejected an opportunity to elucidate and further protect an otherwise potentially nebulous class of people. 

Understanding Caste 

Caste, as defined by SB 403, is: 

An individual’s perceived position in a system of social stratification on the basis of inherited status. ‘A system of social stratification on the basis of inherited status’ may be characterized by factors that may include, but are not limited to, inability or restricted ability to alter inherited status; socially enforced restrictions on marriage, private and public segregation, and discrimination; and social exclusion on the basis of perceived status.

The caste system is one that dates back thousands of years in South Asia, chiefly in India. Although caste is typically associated with Hinduism, the culture of casteism has pervaded many other religions and cultures in South Asia. In a community or family that strictly, piously adheres to caste, the system can impact anything from whom one can marry, what jobs one can perform, what one can eat, and where one can look or walk, to which plates and cups one can use. India banned caste discrimination in 1948, but the system itself remains very much still in practice today.

The Road Ahead in the U.S.

While the introduction of caste discrimination bills is a step forward, it’s important to consider the complexities involved in addressing this issue. Many argue, for example, that determining caste identity can be difficult and that some individuals may misuse these protections. Perhaps it is true that others may not always know to which caste a person belongs. However, irrespective of whether an employee’s colleagues are all aware of the relevant castes at issue, so long as the parties involved are aware, at least the possibility for discrimination exists. 

There are approximately 5.4 million South Asians in the U.S. now. To the extent that someone has used caste as a basis for discrimination, an avenue for recourse should be available. This is a lived reality for many Americans, and it is essential to address just like any other form of discrimination. 


Caste discrimination bills propose to extend legal protections to individuals who face discrimination, including in education, employment, housing, and public services. The emergence of caste discrimination bills in the United States marks a legal path forward for those who have been and are being victimized in the workplace

By addressing this long-standing form of discrimination, American lawmakers join global efforts to combat caste discrimination. Here in Texas, home to hundreds of thousands of South Asian employees, it is only a matter of time before similar bills are drafted here. While the path ahead may be long, these recent bills are a significant step toward ensuring a more just society for all.

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Photo of Rachel Bethel Rachel Bethel

What do you like most about being an employment lawyer?

The best part of being an employment lawyer is being there for people who are facing some of the worst times in their lives. I enjoy counseling my clients and reminding them that…

What do you like most about being an employment lawyer?

The best part of being an employment lawyer is being there for people who are facing some of the worst times in their lives. I enjoy counseling my clients and reminding them that they are not alone. The fact that I then get to use my legal training to help improve their situation is an immensely rewarding feeling.

What kind of clients do you like best?

Clients who are professional and focused on succeeding in their case tend to be the easiest to work with. It is especially helpful when clients are willing to prepare and get all their relevant documents and information in order.

What labor and employment issues do you think are currently trending?

It is encouraging to see that Texas passed the CROWN Act in 2023; it just went into effect in September. Less than half of the country has passed a similar bill, so this is a legal frontier in its nascent stages.

Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?


What is your favorite legal movie?

On the Basis of Sex

Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

I had a brief stint as a preschool teacher, and it was the best job ever. My students were the cutest stress relievers I could have ever asked for.

What is your favorite food?


What’s the best part of living in Dallas, TX?

Being close to my family again after 11 years away in DC. Dallas has changed so much since I was growing up. It is way more diverse now and has a very solid food scene.

What skills do you value as an employment attorney?

I think the three main skills you need to be a good employment attorney are reading (tons of cases, briefs, motions, etc.), writing (complaints, oppositions, motions, etc.), and having the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills to interact with clients, witnesses, mediators, judges, deponents, court clerks, opposing counsel, etc. The role requires a lot of interacting with people in various roles with varying goals. An employment attorney needs to know how to approach every conversation appropriately.

Have you ever learned something from one of your clients?

Every single day. In listening to my clients, I obtain additional data points on how Defendants or Respondents operate in different corporate or governmental settings. Every case is different. Each charge, claim, or lawsuit begins with a story, and that story belongs to the client. Clients know all the contours of their workplace and the relevant personalities far better than their lawyer ever will. If clients are empowered to know what is going on in their case from the start, they can offer a wealth of knowledge, insight, and perspective to help their lawyer succeed. Clients may not know all the legalese and jargon involved, but once they are steered in the right direction, they know where to look or who to talk with to get the most critical information. The more a lawyer listens to the client, the more the lawyer learns each time.