National Origin Discrimination

National origin discrimination is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC received 10,883 charges of workplace discrimination based on national origin in 2012. If you believe that you have suffered workplace discrimination due to your national origin or your appearance of national origin, contact an attorney to discuss your situation.

In the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, many individuals who are or look like they could be of Arab descent have alleged that they have suffered illegal discrimination and unfavorable treatment due to their actual or perceived national origin. The discomfort of coworkers or customers is not a reasonable excuse to discriminate against a person based on his or her national origin, appearance, or cultural dress.

What is National Origin Discrimination?

National origin discrimination involves the unfavorable treatment of job applicants or employees based on their country of origin. It also refers to unfair treatment based on a person's appearance of belonging to a certain ethnic background, even if the person does not actually share that background. National origin discrimination can also be based on the fact or belief that an employee is associated with a certain ethnic group, whether through membership in an organization or via family or marriage.

National origin discrimination can occur between two people of the same national origin. Although the law does not prohibit teasing or offhanded comments, such actions can rise to discrimination if they are severe enough to create a hostile work environment, or if they result in the employee being fired or demoted due to his or her national origin.

Discriminatory harassment can be caused by a supervisor, coworker, or a customer of the company. It can also occur if an employee is segregated from the public due to the employee's national origin. For example, it is a discriminatory practice to deny an employee a customer service job solely on the basis of national origin or ethnic appearance.

Discriminatory Workplace Practices

An employer policy may also be considered illegal if it is not discriminatory on its face, but has the effect of unfairly treating employees based on their national origin. For example, if a requirement that employees speak only English is not necessary for the employees' job function, an "English-only" policy will be considered a discriminatory practice. In order to legally implement an English-only policy, the policy must be necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the workplace. Such a policy cannot be implemented for discriminatory reasons. Similarly, employers may not base hiring decisions on an applicant's accent, unless the accent would substantially interfere with the ability to perform the job function.

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, an employer cannot discriminate against an applicant or employee based on the person's citizenship status. Under this law, employers cannot limit hiring solely to lawful residents unless they are legally required to do so. The law also prohibits employers from requiring workers to provide extra forms beyond those that federal law requires to prove identity. Requiring applicants to provide an extra form of identification amounts to discrimination against immigrants. The acceptable forms of identification are listed on the I-9 form; an employee may choose which of these to present to verify his or her employment eligibility.

A Skilled Attorney Can Protect Your Legal Rights

Whether you are an employer or an employee, the issue of workplace discrimination can be confusing and stressful. Because the law provides guidelines about inappropriate conduct rather than bright-line rules, discrimination must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Many factors must be considered before determining that a situation constitutes discrimination. To avoid a discrimination case, employers should contact a lawyer. The attorneys at Mays & Kerr are experienced with Title VII and can help employers understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to allegations of discrimination in the workplace.