Asian Immigrant Women Say #MeToo

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May 1, 2019

 

May 1, 2019

 

Media Contact:

Christina So, christinaso@advancingjustice-alc.org, 415-848-7728

 

Asian Immigrant Women Say #MeToo

Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus Stands in Support of Sexual Harassment Victims

SAN FRANCISCO – Yesterday, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus and the civil rights law firm Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP filed suit in San Francisco Superior Court on behalf of Amy Zhang, a young Chinese-American woman who was sexually harassed by her employer Raymond Lai while working as an interpreter at Lai’s San Francisco company, Cyber Specialist. Zhang is seeking damages for months of unwelcome sexual advances, comments, and conduct, as well as wages, interest, and penalties owed for uncompensated work.

Zhang began working as an interpreter for Cyber Specialist in August 2017. Over the course of her employment, Lai used work-related pretenses to meet with Zhang alone and subject her to sustained harassment, including repeated comments about her appearance and repeated instances of unwanted touching and forced embraces. Fearing further assault, Zhang stopped working for Lai, changed her phone number, and moved. Zhang decided to file suit to hold Lai accountable for his actions and to put any further harassment to a stop. She fears that other women who work for Lai may continue to suffer harassment.  

“I didn’t come forward just for myself,” Zhang said. “There are too many women with stories like mine who are scared to come forward. It’s not just movie stars or famous people. It’s women from all different backgrounds, including Asian Americans, immigrants, and young people. I wanted to speak out so that other women like me know they are not alone.”

While the public coverage of the #MeToo movement has largely focused on high-profile perpetrators and victims, sexual harassment is a familiar experience for far too many low-wage workers and immigrant women, who are in many instances more vulnerable to such abuse because of language barriers, fear of retaliation, unfamiliarity with their legal rights and our legal system, and how and where they can seek help. Because of these factors and family or cultural pressures against speaking out, sexual harassment against low-wage immigrant women is often underreported and unaddressed. Their voices also deserve to be heard.  

“The silencing of sexual harassment victims is only exacerbated when those victims are already effectively silenced as immigrants, as low-wage workers, or as Asian women,” said Winifred Kao, Litigation Director at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. “We hope Amy’s courage in coming forward will inspire others to do the same and help address the sexual harassment immigrant women and low-wage workers suffer as well.”

“I am inspired to see other immigrant women coming forward,” said Maria Paramo, who worked as a janitor for ABM Industries Inc. and recently sued the company over severe sexual harassment she faced on the job. “I know how scary and hard it is to speak out about sexual harassment and assault. You are taking the risk that people won’t believe you, that friends and family will turn their backs on you. But when women stand up and say, ‘no more,’ we not only feel stronger, we show how much power we really have. It takes a lot of courage to break the silence, and I hope Ms. Zhang gets the support and the justice that all victims of harassment deserve.”

“The attention the #MeToo movement has brought to the issue of sexual harassment is a good thing, but it’s important to shine a light on the experiences of women like Amy. Sexual harassment is damaging to every person who experiences it, but low-income, immigrant woman are especially vulnerable because they often lack the resources, financial and otherwise, to stop harassment and make perpetrators account for their actions,” said Darci Burrell, a partner at Levy Vinick Burrell Hyams LLP, and one of Zhang’s attorneys.       

“Change will happen only if we call out injustice when it occurs,” said Zhang. “We deserve to live in a world free from harassment. The first step is making our voices heard.”

Access the full complaint here.

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Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus was founded in 1972 as the nation’s first legal and civil rights Asian American organization. Recognizing that social, economic, political and racial inequalities continue to exist in the United States, Advancing Justice – ALC is committed to the pursuit of equality and justice for all sectors of our society, with a specific focus directed toward addressing the needs of low-income, immigrant and underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

 

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