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What is National Origin Discrimination?

September 23rd, 2020

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) generally defines national origin discrimination as treating employees or applicants unfavorably because of their place of origin or because they have certain characteristics associated with a national origin group. National origin discrimination also includes disparate treatment based on accent, ethnicity, traits intricately linked to ethnicity, or because an individual appears to be of a certain ethnic background.

Along with other forms of discrimination, such as race discrimination and religious discrimination, national origin discrimination is prohibited under federal and state law. Those who are subject to national origin discrimination in the workplace may seek legal remedies from their employer, including back pay and compensatory damages.

What Happens if an Employer Violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of national origin. The law applies to all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, and any other conditions of employment.

Those who violate the law may suffer legal consequences, including reinstatement of the employee’s job, promotion or raise, retroactive pay, and payment of the employee’s attorney’s fees and court costs. In some especially egregious cases, punitive damages may even be awarded to punish an employer for their actions to deter discriminatory behavior in the future.

Protected Characteristics Under the Law

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects applicants and employees from many forms of employment discrimination, including unfavorable treatment on the basis of national origin. Full-time, part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers are covered under the law.

The EEOC defines national origin discrimination broadly and prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees on the basis of the following:

  • Place of Origin: Where an individual is from or where their ancestors are from.
  • Ethnicity: Belonging to a group of people sharing a common language, culture, ancestry, race, or other social characteristics.
  • Physical, Linguistic, or Cultural Traits: Characteristics associated with a national origin group, such as hairstyle, last name, language, or clothing.
  • Affiliation: Participation or membership in organizations that are associated with certain ethnic or cultural groups.
  • Citizenship or Immigration Status: Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers are prohibited from discriminating against those employed in the United States, regardless of citizenship.

What is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act?

National origin is also protected under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA). Under the PHRA, individuals are entitled to be free from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation. Employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations are all prohibited from discriminating on the basis of national origin.

What is the Difference Between Race Discrimination and National Origin Discrimination?

While both race and national origin discrimination are prohibited, race discrimination refers to treating someone unfavorably because they are a certain race or have particular features associated with that race, such as skin color. National origin discrimination refers to treating someone unfavorably because they are from a certain part of the world.

What are Some Examples of National Origin Discrimination?

National origin discrimination may take many forms. Whether it is direct or subtle, it is unlawful. Some examples of national origin discrimination include the following:

  • Employers who do not interview applicants with foreign-sounding surnames.
  • Companies who refuse to promote employees who wear cultural garments.
  • Employers who do not allow non-Caucasian workers to deal with customers directly.
  • Employers who only hire people with Caucasian features.
  • Companies who discipline non-Caucasian employees more harshly.
  • Employers who selectively enforce English-only rules against employees.
  • Businesses who fire employees because their spouses are not Caucasian.

Is Harassment Considered Unlawful?

It is also unlawful to harass an individual because of their national origin. The EEOC estimates that 37 percent of all charges of discrimination filed in the fiscal year of 2015 included harassment claims. When an individual is subjected to a hostile work environment, they may have an actionable claim for harassment.

What Constitutes a Hostile Work Environment?

Teasing, off-hand remarks, and isolated incidents are not protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. To be considered unlawful, the allegedly discriminatory behavior must rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is present when an individual is subject to intimidation, physical violence, ethnic slurs, or other forms of offensive conduct based on their national origin.

According to the EEOC, there are several factors to be considered when determining whether a workplace is hostile, including how frequent the conduct was, whether it was physically threatening or intimidating, whether it was hostile or offensive, and the context.

Supervisors are not the only ones who can create a hostile work environment, it can also be created by employees or even non-employees. Employers have a duty to ensure that the workplace is free from discrimination. This means that they must respond promptly to allegations of discrimination or harassment and take reasonable steps to prevent it from happening in the future.

What Should I Do if I am Discriminated Against at Work?

If a worker is subject to national origin discrimination in the workplace, they should compile all evidence supporting their claim. A worker should write down the date, location, and details of the events that led them to believe they were the subject of national origin discrimination. A discriminated employee should gather any written proof, such as emails, and get contact information from any witnesses.

It is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible, as there are statutes of limitations that apply to national origin discrimination claims. If filing with the EEOC, one must file a claim within 300 days from the date of the last incident. Once the EEOC has investigated a claim and issued a Right to Sue letter, the employee has 90 days to file in federal court. If filing a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, one must do so within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory action or incident.

What Remedies are Available in a Claim for National Origin Discrimination?

The types of relief available differ based on the circumstances of each case. Victims of discrimination may seek compensatory damages, including:

  • Reinstatement of employment.
  • Back pay and benefits the employee would have received in the position.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses caused by the discrimination.
  • Emotional harm suffered as a result of the discrimination.
  • Recovery of attorney’s fees and court costs.

Punitive damages may also be imposed in cases involving especially malicious or reckless acts of discrimination. However, there are limits on the amount of both compensatory and punitive damages that may be awarded in any case. The amount a person can recover depends on the size of the employer.

Why is it Important to Hire a Lawyer?

A harassed or discriminated employee should hire a knowledgeable lawyer if they wish to file a claim. A lawyer will help the victim successfully file an EEOC claim and protect their rights. A lawyer will build a strong case and ensure that the victim receives entitled damages.

Philadelphia Employment Discrimination Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Fight for Victims of National Origin Discrimination

If you believe your rights were violated at work, contact our Philadelphia employment discrimination lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Our experienced attorneys can evaluate your case and help you get the justice and compensation you deserve. For a free consultation, call us at 215-569-1999 or complete our online form. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.

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