Letter to the President Elect — Our Workplace and Asian Pacific Americans

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on the start of a new administration.  As one of a handful of pan-Asian legal advocates in the nation focused on the civil and legal rights of Asian Pacific Americans, The Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center hopes that your administration is mindful of issues that are specific to Asian Pacific Americans (APAs).  The APALRC is the nonprofit legal advocate advancing the legal and civil rights of low-income and limited English proficient Asian Pacific Americans of the Capitol region, through direct legal services, community education, and advocacy.  Although we are only 5% of the country’s residents, 50% of APAs live in the East Coast or West Coast.  Further, APAs are made up of more than 50 ethnicities and speak over a hundred languages/dialects.  Finally, about 2 out of 3 APAs are foreign-born.

Given these demographics, national origin discrimination, language discrimination, and accent discrimination are key workplace issues for the APA community.  In order to ensure that APAs have full integration and opportunity in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission must continue to have your administration’s full support in terms of investigating claims under Title VII.  Any legislative attempts to limit the reach of Title VII should be prevented (as happened in the past few years).

APA domestic workers also face issues including trafficking and workers rights abuses.  Some APA workers arrive in the United States, have their documents taken, and forced to work long hours.  Many low-wage workers are unaware of overtime provisions and other labor statutes that protect them.  Thus, your administration should encourage and fund partnerships between government agencies and ethnic-specific community groups to work on workers rights education campaigns to ensure that all workers are aware of their legal rights.

Lastly, many APAs have immigrated to the United States as graduate-school educated professionals. Additionally, large numbers of APAs are entering professional fields such as medicine and the law.  That said, studies have demonstrated that a glass ceiling prevents APAs from progressing as quickly as their white colleagues progress.  Further, stereotypes concerning leadership ability hamper the advancement of APA professionals.  Your administration can lead the business and legal community through the appointment of APAs to highly visible and influential leadership positions throughout the federal government.

The Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center looks forward to assisting your administration in moving toward a more equitable workplace for all Americans.

About the Author: Myron Quon is the Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, working to expand and extend the APALRC’s programs and advising regional public officials on the needs and priorities of the Asian American and broader immigrant community. Prior to joining the APALRC, Mr. Quon served as Legal Director of the Asian American Institute in Chicago and as an Adjunct Lecturer with the Asian American Studies Program at Northwestern University. Mr. Quon’s background includes being the Deputy Regional Director of the Western Regional Office of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund. Mr. Quon began his legal career in the field of direct legal services, as a staff attorney and then managing attorney for the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County in Santa Maria, California. Mr. Quon has a JD from Boston University and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.