1. Home
  2. A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2022

A Message from EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows on Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month 2022

Dear Colleagues:

Each May we celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AA and NHPI) Heritage Month to recognize the diverse histories of AA and NHPI communities and acknowledge their many contributions to our country. This year’s theme is “Building Legacy Together: Our Communities’ Journey of Strength and Resilience.”

AAs and NHPIs have played vital roles in shaping and advancing America’s culture, society, and economy in every area, including entrepreneurship, the arts, the military, and public service. Yet, historically, they have endured deep-rooted discrimination and racism, which has denied equal opportunity and inclusion to generations of individuals and their families. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic sparked an alarming rise in harassment and violence against AA and NHPI individuals due, at least in part, to the false and dangerous rhetoric that they were somehow responsible for the pandemic. The reports and charges of discrimination that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has received over the past two years make painfully clear that this intolerance has spilled into American workplaces.

The Biden-Harris Administration has led a whole of government approach to fight hate and xenophobia against AAs and NHPIs in the United States while promoting equity, justice, and opportunity, and the EEOC is a key partner in those efforts. To address the rise in hate crimes and combat workplace discrimination, the EEOC has coordinated community engagement efforts with other federal agencies and collaborated with the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (WHIAANHPI) and the White House Office of Public Engagement. In addition, the EEOC has continued to respond to the increasing number of bias incidents against AAs and NHPIs and improve access to federal services for these communities.

A few of EEOC’s efforts include the following:

  • Highlighting the problem of anti-AANHPI bias in a unanimous resolution in March 2021 after the Atlanta spa shootings that targeted women of Asian descent and claimed the lives of eight people – “Condemning Violence, Harassment, and Bias Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States”; 
  • Holding a Commission hearing in April 2021 on workplace civil rights issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing included testimony highlighting pandemic-related violence, harassment, and discrimination against AAs and NHPIs and disparities within AA and NHPI communities that must be considered when addressing the pandemic’s impact;
  • Translating key online resource documents into four Asian languages – Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese – and posting these documents on the agency’s public website to improve access for people with limited English proficiency; and
  • Resolving impactful lawsuits on behalf of AA and NHPI workers, including:
    • In April 2021, the EEOC reached a $105,000 settlement with Saipan-based Imperial Pacific to resolve a lawsuit alleging that the company permitted customers at the Best Sunshine Casino in Saipan to sexually harass AA and NHPI employees, discriminated against female employees in their terms and conditions of employment, and retaliated against them for resisting the harassment. In addition to monetary relief to the individual workers, the four-year consent decree requires Imperial Pacific to provide in-person training in both English and Chinese for all employees on sexual harassment, including sexual harassment by customers, and retaliation.
  • In May 2021, the EEOC recovered $4.8 million to satisfy a judgment in a national origin and race discrimination lawsuit filed against Maui Pineapple alleging labor trafficking, harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against 54 Thai workers.

Additionally, from January 20 to September 30, 2021, the EEOC’s WHIAANHPI Regional Network staff conducted or participated in 287 events nationwide with 13,364 attendees. These events included listening sessions, roundtables, technical assistance programs, and virtual webinars – many in coordination with other federal agencies. This fiscal year, the EEOC’s Regional Network staff continue to resolve issues regarding safety and access to justice for AA and NHPI communities by preventing, addressing, and effectively tracking acts of hate and bias.

In recognition of AA and NHPI Heritage Month, we celebrate a legacy that beautifully reflects the words of Chinese American novelist Amy Tan: “In America nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you.” Despite facing persistent discrimination and xenophobic violence, AA and NHPI persons in the United States have refused to accept exclusion and opposed systemic barriers to equality. They have stood against hate and violence while effectively partnering with others to uphold the American principles of inclusion and equality for all. While America’s AA and NHPI communities are diverse and their histories and cultures are distinct, their collective journey has been rich with resilience and rooted in fortitude. The EEOC is committed to protecting the workplace civil rights of all AA and NHPI people as they continue to build a legacy of strength, unity, and prosperity.