On September 5, 2023, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 403 (“SB-403”), paving the way for a state-wide ban on caste discrimination to be signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. 

SB-403 would amend the definition of “ancestry” under the California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, Fair Employment and Housing Act, and certain provisions of the Education Code to include and define “caste.” According to the introductory language to the bill, rather than adding a new category of protected characteristics, the amendments “are declarative of and clarify existing law.”  

Under SB-403, “ancestry” is defined as including (but is not limited to) “lineal descent, heritage, parentage, caste, or any inherited social status.”  “Caste” is defined more specifically as:

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.

While India outlawed caste discrimination more than 70 years ago, California joins Seattle, which as we reported earlier this year, became the first U.S. jurisdictions to specifically reference caste in their anti-discrimination laws. In this regard, California is joining a growing group of private institutions and organizations who have sought to recognize caste as a protected category. To date, at least seven institutions of higher education have added caste to their anti-discrimination policies.

Due to the complex history of caste systems, the topic can be a sensitive one and fertile ground for debate. Moreover, because the concept of caste may also be new to many individuals in the United States, employers are advised to stay abreast of trends regarding laws prohibiting caste-based discrimination in the workplace and consult employment counsel to ensure appropriate compliance with the law. Finally, employers should remember that, like many other California employment laws, even if an employer is located outside of California, it may still be subject to California employment laws if there are any employees who live or work in California.

Back to Workforce Bulletin Blog

Search This Blog

Blog Editors


Related Services



Jump to Page


Sign up to receive an email notification when new Workforce Bulletin posts are published:

Privacy Preference Center

When you visit any website, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. This information might be about you, your preferences or your device and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to. The information does not usually directly identify you, but it can give you a more personalized web experience. Because we respect your right to privacy, you can choose not to allow some types of cookies. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings. However, blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer.

Strictly Necessary Cookies

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems. They are usually only set in response to actions made by you which amount to a request for services, such as setting your privacy preferences, logging in or filling in forms. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not then work. These cookies do not store any personally identifiable information.

Performance Cookies

These cookies allow us to count visits and traffic sources so we can measure and improve the performance of our site. They help us to know which pages are the most and least popular and see how visitors move around the site. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. If you do not allow these cookies we will not know when you have visited our site, and will not be able to monitor its performance.