National origin discrimination in the workplace is the treatment of employees or applicants differently than others because of their ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background (even if they are not). It is unlawful to discriminate against any employee or applicant because of the individual’s national origin. This includes discrimination based on an individual’s birthplace, ancestry, culture, linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group, or accent. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal statute that protects against national origin discrimination, also protects against workplace harassment and discrimination based on an individual’s marriage or association with people of a national origin group; membership or association with specific ethnic promotion groups; attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples, or mosques generally associated with a national origin group; or a surname associated with a national origin group. National origin discrimination is also prohibited in many circumstances as “race discrimination” under another federal law, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as well as under several state and local laws.
Correia & Puth is committed to fighting for employees who have experienced discrimination because of their national origin, and to hold employers accountable for their unlawful actions. We have long advocated against stereotypes in the workplace and for protections workers have under Title VII and other federal, state, and local laws. We have filed complaints in state and federal courts, and negotiated improved employment conditions and settlement agreements with employers.
“We are staunch advocates against national origin discrimination, and believe all employees should be given a fair chance to succeed in the workplace regardless of their culture and background.”
Laws prohibiting national origin discrimination make it illegal to discriminate because of a person’s birthplace, ancestry, culture, or language. This means people cannot be denied equal opportunity in hiring, firing, or any other terms and conditions of employment because they or their family are from another country, because they have a name or accent associated with a national origin group, because they participate in certain customs associated with a national origin group, or because they are married to or associate with people of a certain national origin. The law protects against reprisal for asserting your right to a workplace free from national origin discrimination.
National origin discrimination is often exhibited through bias against individuals for their choice in spoken language or exhibited accent. This includes unfair treatment of an individual based upon the characteristics of their speech; such as accent, vocabulary, and sentence composition. It can also involve a person’s ability or inability to use one language instead of another. Title VII prohibits an employer from making an employment decision because of an employee’s foreign accent or language use unless the accent or language materially interferes with an individual’s job performance. The law generally makes it illegal to prefer one language over another, though there are many exceptions. An employer is prohibited from mandating its employees be fluent in English, unless it is required for the effective performance of the position. Employers that adopt “English-only” rules, for example a restaurant that prohibits its employees from speaking in any language other than English when they are on the job, must adopt the policy for nondiscriminatory reasons. English-only rules are prohibited by Title VII unless the rule is needed to promote the safe or efficient operation of the employer’s business.
Oftentimes individuals who experience national origin discrimination at the hands of their employer or potential employer have also experienced discrimination based on their race. Federal and state laws forbid race discrimination in every aspect of the employment relationship, including hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, job training, or any other term or condition of employment. For example, an employer discriminates when it refuses to hire individuals with Hispanic last names, requires only African-American job applicants to take a drug test, or refuses to let Asian-American employees work directly with customers. An employer that discriminates on the basis of physical characteristics associated with a particular race, such as hair texture or skin color, also commits race discrimination. Visit Correia & Puth’s page on race discrimination here to learn more.
Harassment on the basis of national origin is prohibited. Harassment is any conduct based on a person’s national origin that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment or interferes with the person’s work performance. Harassing conduct might include racial slurs, jokes about a particular ethnic group, comments or questions about a person’s cultural habits or traditions, or physical acts of particular significance to a certain racial or ethnic group.
Also common in national origin discrimination cases is discrimination based on an employee or applicant’s immigration status. For example, an employer should not ask whether or not a job applicant is a United States citizen before making an offer of employment. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment based on an individual’s citizenship or immigration status. IRCA makes it unlawful for employers to hire only U.S. citizens (unless required to do so by law, regulation, or government contract). IRCA also prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin by smaller employers with 4 to 14 employees, whereas Title VII only applies to employers with 15 or more employees. IRCA, like Title VII, prohibits retaliation against individuals for asserting their rights under the Act, or for filing a charge or assisting in an investigation or proceeding under IRCA.
If you have been a target of national origin discrimination or retaliation, the lawyers at Correia & Puth can help you obtain relief and hold your employer accountable. We can guide you through the process of making a complaint to your employer, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or to a state or local agency. We zealously represent our clients in negotiating a resolution with employers, and we file lawsuits to achieve our clients’ goals in court where appropriate. Please Contact Us to learn more.