National origin discrimination can be incredibly hurtful – and it’s also illegal.
But what is national origin discrimination, and what can you do if you’ve been a victim of it?
For most people, a good first step is to talk to an employment lawyer.
What is National Origin Discrimination?
National origin discrimination involves treating job applicants or employees unfavorably because of where they’re from. It can be because you’re from a certain country or certain part of the world, or it can be because of your ethnicity or even the way you talk. Sometimes it even occurs because an employer believes someone is part of a certain ethnicity, even if the person isn’t, or when someone is married to or associates with another person of a certain national origin.
This type of discrimination can even occur when you and the person who discriminated against you have the same national origin.
What Employers Are Not Allowed to Do
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that all people, regardless of national origin, are entitled to equal access to employment. What that means is that an employer has to give you a fair shot at employment, as well as treat you like it treats every other employee, regardless of where you’re from (or what ethnic group you’re part of). The Civil Rights Act applies to employers with 15 or more employees.
California has its own laws on national origin discrimination, too, from the Fair Employment and Housing Council. The rules define national origin as a person’s actual or perceived:
- Attendance or participation in schools or worship activities that are generally used by people of a national origin group
- Marriage to or an association with a person or people of a national origin group
- Membership in or an association with a group that promotes the interests of a national origin group
- Name that may be associated with a national origin group
- Physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics that are associated with a national origin group
- Tribal affiliation
- Demote you or fire you based on your national origin
- Deny you employment because you’re a non-citizen if you have valid work papers, with a few exceptions
- Fail to promote you or offer you the same benefits others receive
- Permit harassment because you’re part of a particular national origin
- Prevent you from accessing or going to training events based on national origin
Related: Racial Discrimination in the Workplace: What You Need to Know
Examples of National Origin Discrimination
Sometimes national origin discrimination is obvious – like when an employer says, “I won’t hire anyone from Spain,” “I can’t promote you because you’re German,” or “We’re demoting you because we don’t like your French accent.” It can even include discrimination against American workers in favor of foreign workers.
But usually, it’s not this obvious.
National origin discrimination can look like this:
- People repeatedly calling an employee “Taliban” or “Arab” because of his or her perceived or actual national origin
- Refusal to promote someone because he or she attends a mosque or other religious facility
- Firing someone because he or she has an accent, even when that person is not required to speak English to perform a job effectively
Related: Religious Discrimination
A Word on Speaking English
Employers can’t have a policy that prohibits the use of any language in the workplace, or that requires only English to be spoken unless:
- There is a true business necessity for English
- The language restriction is narrowly tailored
- The employer notifies its employees of the time and circumstances when language restrictions are required, and of the consequences of violating the language restriction
- The language restriction is necessary for safety and efficiency
- The language restriction fulfills its business purpose
- There isn’t an alternative practice to the language restriction that would accomplish the same purposes
For example, if an employer puts out an “English-only” rule that prevents you from speaking in another language with coworkers who also speak the same language on your breaks or to convey instructions to each other, that rule could be discriminatory.
Citizenship Discrimination in the Workplace
Employees can’t deny employment to non-citizens who have valid work papers. It’s illegal.
However, U.S. citizenship can be a prerequisite for hiring in some instances, such as when it’s required by federal, state or local law, or by government contract.
What if You’re a Victim of National Origin Discrimination?
If you feel you’ve been the victim of national origin discrimination, we want to help you.
Call us right now at 818-230-8380 for your free consultation with an employment attorney. We can answer your questions, talk about possible outcomes for your case, and develop a strategy that gets you the best possible results.