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In the wake of recent violence in California against Asian Americans, as well as a current study that showed many Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) employees fear for their safety in the workplace, it is important for HR Departments to consider how they need to address this particularly relevant issue.

Recent Mass Shootings Highlights a Serious Problem

Just recently our country saw two deadly mass shootings in California. First, in Monterey Park, California, a city with a large Asian American community, a gunman opened fire at a celebration of the Lunar New Year. Just days later, in Half Moon Bay, California, another mass shooting occurred involving several Chinese American victims. While the motive of the first case has not been determined and officials believe the second shooting was probably an incident of workplace violence, they highlight the very prevalent issue of violence against AAPI individuals, both at work and in the community.

A Lack of Acknowledgment and Response to AAPI Discrimination

Violence increased against AAPI individuals during the Covid-19 pandemic and has not really let up. However, nearly one-fourth of all AAPI employees who have been surveyed feel their employers are not really “vocal” about prohibiting violence in the workplace. The result can be very detrimental to the workforce. As the survey showed, more than 60% of AAPI employees feel this continued violence has negatively affected their mental health.  Likewise, more than 60% said they feel unsafe commuting to work, and half reported the violence has had a negative impact as their ability to focus at work.

Common Issues AAPI Individuals Face in the Workplace

There are many microaggressions that AAPI workers face in the workplace, but two particular ones involve constantly commenting on their English language skills and the other is assuming that an AAPI employee is good at math or smarter than others. The reality is that AAPI professionals are the least likely of most racial groups to have upper level role models where they work. They are also the least likely to have a strong network to relay on for professional support.

What Employers Can Do to Address Inequities

There are three steps that employers can take to address these issues in the workplace and improve the inclusion and acceptance of AAPI employees.  One of the first things that can be done is an internal audit of their company in order to identify any systemic inequities that may exist. Employers should then share the results of their audit to leaders within the company so they can understand and recognize any structural racism that is uncovered. Sharing the results will also serve to open lines of communication. Finally, company officials and employees need to collaborate in order to establish and implement solutions. These collaborative efforts will allow both the company officials and the employees to hold each other accountable.

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