To make sure everyone has equal opportunities in the workplace, there are laws in place that protect people living and working in the U.S. from receiving unfair or discriminatory treatment. It is important that you have a clear understanding of what national origin discrimination is and what laws are in place to protect you.
National origin discrimination is the unfavorable or prejudicial treatment of people based on their country of origin, culture, ancestry, linguistic characteristics, or the belief that they are from a particular ethnic background. This includes people who are married to or associated with someone of a particular national origin.
It is important to note that people of a particular national origin or ethnic group may share a common language, ancestry, culture, social norms, and, in some cases, physical characteristics.
National origin discrimination against applicants and employees is illegal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects applicants and employees from discrimination based on various factors of race, religion, color, sex, and national origin. Title VII has also been amended to include opposition to illegal practices described in it.
Title VII applies to all people who seek employment or are employed in the U.S. In regard to national origin discrimination, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against any applicant or employee based on national origin or any of the aforementioned classifications. It is also illegal for an employer of a particular national origin group to discriminate against an employee of the same group.
National origin discrimination is not limited to employers. It includes supervisors or managers, employees, clients, and customers. An employer is responsible for becoming aware of any situation that may constitute discriminatory practices, such as harassment, based on national origin. Ultimately, an employer is liable if they either knew or should have known about a situation and did not take appropriate and immediate action.
Discriminatory practices include denying employment, a promotion, compensation, or job training. An employer cannot retaliate because an employee complained of discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, participated in an investigation, or took a stand against discriminatory practices.
Additionally, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) has the specific duty of making it illegal for any employer to discriminate against a person based upon citizenship or immigration status. The IRCA prohibits the exclusive hiring of only U.S. citizens or permanent residents unless deemed necessary by regulation, law, or government contract.
The IRCA also denies employers the right to refuse legal documentation of employment eligibility or to demand additional documentation beyond the legal requirement for verification of employment eligibility. No employee can retaliate against individuals for asserting their rights, filing a claim against an employer, or helping in an investigation that falls under the IRCA.
What Is Harassment Based on National Origin?
Harassment based on national origin is similar to harassment that is directed toward any protected class, such as LGBT, women, etc. The only difference is that the harassment is based specifically on the classification of national origin. Harassment in the workplace is described as an act that is consistent or serious enough that the individual being harassed views the work environment as hostile or abusive, making the work environment intolerable.
As previously mentioned, it is not just employers who may perpetrate a violation of employee rights. For instance, a customer who consistently comes into a workplace and targets a person of a different national origin is guilty of discrimination. Although it would be difficult to take appropriate action toward said individual, it would be within the right of the harassed employee to file a claim against the employer for allowing the harassment to continually take place without taking corrective measures.
Harassment based on national origin can present itself in a variety of ways. These include ethnic slurs, workplace graffiti, email messages, and offensive language. Harassment may come in the form of direct insults or derogatory statements toward an individual’s country, culture, accent, or ethnicity.
A harassment violation includes making comments toward an individual’s significant other or family members. Any type of harassing and offensive action that is directed toward a person because of national origin is illegal.
What Are Some Examples of National Origin Discrimination?
It is illegal to discriminate against an employee based on the perception that the employee is from a particular country or that the employee is part of a particular ethnic group. For example, it is prohibited to discriminate against an employee in the workplace based on the perception that the employee is from the Middle East. It is irrelevant as to whether or not the employee in question is actually from the Middle East or identifies as someone of Middle Eastern descent.
No one is legally permitted to discriminate against an employee because of affiliation with another person, organization, or group that is of a particular national origin. For instance, it is prohibited to discriminate against a person who belongs to a prayer group that is believed to be congruent with the religious practices of a particular national origin.
What Is Not Discriminatory?
It is legal for an employer to make a decision based on accent or English fluency if it is necessary for performing the job effectively. A janitor position would not qualify as needing fluency in English. A job that requires perfect English fluency, however, would be legal as long as the job adequately explains the reason why.
For instance, a particular job position might require that an employee speak to a customer who speaks English only, or an employee who is responsible for speaking emergency instructions to other employees. Another example is an editor position that requires proficiency in English on an extended level. An applicant without good English writing skills would be considered a poor fit for such position.
How Do You Report National Origin Discrimination?
You should file a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if you are experiencing national origin discrimination, and you have 45 days to do so. The EEOC handles claims of job discrimination related to an employee’s national origin in workplaces of 15 or more employees.
Additionally, the Department of Justice has a unit called the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, which handles claims of job discrimination related to national origin in workplaces with 4 to 14 employees.
You should also retain a lawyer to advise you as to what steps you should take and what strategies are best for your situation. You may also want to file a lawsuit. A lawyer can advise you as to whether or not you have a case. If you do, a lawyer can advise you on whether or not you qualify for compensation or if you can be reinstated in the case of wrongful termination.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Represent Those Who Have Faced National Origin Discrimination in the Workplace
If you have faced national origin discrimination at your workplace or when applying for work, speak with one of our experienced Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. We will fight for your rights. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients across South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County.