We have likely all heard of the glass ceiling — the barrier that keeps certain individuals from advancing in their profession. This metaphor generally refers to roadblocks that keep women and minorities from breaking into executive and other high-level positions within an organization. The term goes back decades, likely starting in the 1970s at Hewlett-Packard.
Unfortunately, it appears the tech industry is the start of yet another term used to help define the frustrating and illegal barriers that can come with employment discrimination: the bamboo ceiling.
What is the “bamboo ceiling” and where did this term originate?
Much like the glass ceiling, the bamboo ceiling is a metaphorical barrier that prevents Asian Americans from taking on leadership roles within various organizations. We can better understand the concept with an example.
In a recent case, a tech developer filed a lawsuit against his former employer after management passed him up for an executive position managing the tech he developed. In the lawsuit, the employee claims he was a victim of racial discrimination. Evidence to support his clam includes:
- The employer’s management banned Mandarin from the office and ridiculed the employee’s accent.
- The employer hired a white woman for a management position because she was “not like them.”
- A workplace environment that allowed making fun of different cultures, evidenced by repeated jokes about workers “steaming rice” at the factories in China.
- Superiors told him to stop speaking out against racism within the workplace because it “made white people feel bad.”
The employee states that shortly after speaking out about racism within the workplace he was transferred and then months later after he continued to push for change, terminated from his position.
He has filed a lawsuit stating the termination was the result of wrongful discrimination and has asked for $20 million in damages. If successful, he states he will put a portion of his winnings towards the broader problem of the bamboo ceiling. The case is currently moving forward.
What can others who face similar situations learn from this case?
It is illegal to discriminate against an individual based on their race and case after case are currently moving forward that allege employers are targeting Asian Americans, particularly within the tech industry. There are federal and state laws that offer protection and legal remedies are available for victims of this type of discrimination. In cases like the one discussed above, the victim may have grounds to move forward with allegations of discrimination, retaliation, and wrongful termination.
This type of treatment within the workplace is more than just unethical and frustrating, it is illegal. Legal remedies are available for those who are the victims of discrimination and can include reinstatement and the award of monetary damages. Those who believe they are the victims of workplace discrimination, retaliation, or wrongful termination are wise to take steps to understand their rights and legal options.