Has your boss ever told you that you are only allowed to speak English at the workplace (“English Only”)? Have you ever been written up for speaking a language other than English at the workplace? Have you been denied a promotion simply because of your ethnicity or the way you look? Are you assigned worse or less favorable assignments because of your accent or the color of your skin?

Did your employer make any hiring, firing, promotion, pay or training decisions based on solely where you come from or look like where you come from? Have you been teased or made fun of at work because of your race or cultural habits, either perceived or real?

If so, these are forms of “National Origin Discrimination” and such actions are prohibited by law. An employer cannot discriminate against you because you come from a particular country or part of the world. They also can’t discriminate against you if you are married or associated with someone from a certain place. If any of the above sounds familiar, contact our experienced attorneys today to discuss how we can help.

How Do I Know it’s Discrimination?

National origin discrimination occurs when a person is treated differently or harassed based on that person’s ancestry, ethnicity or birthplace, or because of traits closely linked to ethnicity (such as physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin group). National origin discrimination can also happen when a member of one national origin group discriminates against a member of that same group – this means people can discriminate against other members of their own ethnicity or national group.

The Department of Justice says many cases of national origin discrimination are not reported because people do not know their rights or because they are afraid they will get in trouble if they complain. Lauby, Mankin & Lauby LLP can help you understand those rights.

What is National Origin Discrimination?

The term “national origin” refers to the nation or location in the world where you or any of your ancestors came from— your place of origin.. For example, the place of origin may be a country (e.g., United States, Mexico, China). It may be a geographic region, including a region that never was a country but nevertheless is closely associated with a particular group, for example, Palestine.

Employers are prohibited by law from discriminating against individuals because of their national origin group. A “national origin group,” or an “ethnic group,” is a group of people sharing a common language, culture, ancestry, race, and/or other social characteristics. For example, Hispanics or Arabs are considered ethnic or national origin groups. National origin discrimination can be based on:

  • Ethnicity: Discrimination against someone because he or she is of a specific group, such as Hispanic. However, national origin discrimination also occurs in the reverse when there is discrimination against a person because he or she does not belong to a specific group. For example, it is still discrimination to treat an employee less favorably, such as not promoting them, simply because that employee is not Hispanic.
  • Physical, linguistic, or cultural traits: Discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee worse because of a specific trait associated with that person’s national origin. For example, treating an employee negatively because of his or her accent or specific clothing associated with a national group could constitute discrimination. What’s more, it’s illegal for your boss to make you speak only English if fluency in English is not needed to perform the job effectively.
  • Tribal association

National origin discrimination can also occur based on someone’s perception of another person or that person’s association.

  • Perception: For example, it may be discrimination if an employer negatively treats an employee because they believe the employee is from Mexico or of Hispanic ethnicity, regardless of how that person actually identifies himself or herself; and despite the fact that person is, or is not, from a Hispanic country. Additionally, an employer cannot discriminate against a person based on their name because the employer associates that specific name with a national origin group.
  • Association: Employment discrimination against an individual because of his association with someone of a specific national origin. This includes a person’s membership in or association with an organization identified with or seeking to promote the interests of a national origin group or attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples, mosques, or other religious institutions generally used by persons of a national origin group. Additionally, it is discrimination to treat a person worse because he or she is married to or has a child with someone of a different national origin or ethnicity. For example, treating a Caucasian employee negatively simply because he or she has a spouse of a different ethnicity.
  • Citizenship Status: It is discrimination to treat a person less favorably solely because of their citizenship status if it has the purpose or effect of discriminating based on national origin. For example, treating a person negatively because he or she is not a U.S. citizen or only requesting social security number as the only method to verify employment eligibility.

Have you ever felt like your employer treats people from certain ethnic groups better than others? If this has happened to you, then contact our office today, so we can investigate and right the wrong that has been done.

Discrimination can be blatant, or it can be more discreet. If your boss directly states he is not promoting you because of your ethnicity, that is a clear example of national origin discrimination.

However, a more subtle form of discrimination occurs when the there is no overt reason stated but the effect is to discriminate against a national origin group. For example, having “English only” rules at work could constitute unlawful discrimination if the employer does not have a legitimate business purpose for the rule. Even if the language requirement rule is legal, an employer cannot require employees to speak only English during their non-work time, such as breaks and lunches.

Another example of subtle discrimination is height and weight requirements for a job. If the height and weight requirements for a job has a negative impact on employing individuals from a specific national origin group, it may constitute discrimination unless that height and weight requirement can be tied to a legitimate business purpose that cannot be achieved through other means.

Do you have discriminatory policies at your workplace – are there language requirements? Are you prohibited from wearing specific clothing that is common to your culture or religion? Contact us so we can get to the bottom of these issues.

Finally, discrimination against a person can also touch multiple protected classes at the same time. There is no rule that only one protected class can be affected at any given time. For example, discrimination against a female, Hispanic employee can potentially be gender, national origin, and racial discrimination. Typically, national origin discrimination and racial discrimination go together, and it is not uncommon to see both occurring.

If you believe that your boss or manager has discriminated against you because of your national origin, contact us today to see how we can help. Discrimination can be blatant, or it is can be subtle. Even if you are unsure if you have been discriminated against by your employer but you have a hostile workplace environment, contact us so we can investigate to see if there are discriminatory policies in place.

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