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A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows for 2023 Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Every May we celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AANHPIHM). This year’s AANHPIHM theme is “Visible Together,” recognizing the incredible diversity of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) communities and celebrating the contributions they have made to our nation. 

The AANHPIHM designation first began to take shape in 1978 when Congress passed a resolution creating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week. In 1992, this was expanded to the entire month of May to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants to the United States on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which relied heavily on Chinese workers, on May 10, 1869. 

According to the U.S. Census, over 24 million AA and NHPIs live in the United States. AA and NHPI communities comprise more than 50 different ethnic groups. Those who identify as Chinese (except Taiwanese), Indian, Filipino, and Vietnamese are the largest groups in the United States, but no one group constitutes a majority. AA and NHPIs also speak over 100 languages, and approximately two-thirds speak a language other than English at home. Many are limited English proficient, but language assistance needs vary widely within AA and NHPI communities.  

The EEOC recognizes the successes and remarkable achievements of AA and NHPIs, who represent us at all levels of the government, own businesses, serve in the military, and positively influence our culture and society. The agency is also mindful that employment discrimination and bias against AA and NHPIs persist. To help protect their rights to be free of discrimination on the job, the agency works to ensure that AA and NHPIs know their workplace rights and how to report employment discrimination.   

Our work also takes into account the diversity of AA and NHPI communities. In fiscal year 2022, EEOC staff conducted or participated in 279 outreach events involving a wide variety of AA and NHPI groups that included translation assistance when appropriate. This month, agency staff are conducting webinars, organizing panels, and participating in community events to celebrate AANHPIHM and help educate AA and NHPIs about the EEOC and available agency resources.

In recent years, the agency has also filed impactful lawsuits to combat harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against multiple AA and NHPI groups, including:

  • Global Horizons, a multi-year case that helped vindicate the rights of Thai workers subjected to labor trafficking;
  • Imperial Pacific, a case involving Chinese and other AA and NHPI workers subjected to sex-based discrimination and retaliation in Saipan;
  • Sunridge Nurseries, which involved national origin and race discrimination against Filipino seasonal farmworkers; and
  • Lindsay Ford, in which a South Asian car salesman was subjected to race, national origin, and sex-based harassment.

While we are proud of our ongoing efforts, we know that a great deal of work remains to fully protect AA and NHPI persons from workplace discrimination and that our efforts must be tailored to different communities and needs. The EEOC remains committed to further expanding our outreach, translation, and enforcement efforts for AA and NHPIs and working in partnership with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and other agencies to ensure all communities are equitably served by the federal government.