National Origin Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law which makes it illegal to discriminate or retaliate against or otherwise treat unfavorably, an employee or job applicant because that person is from a particular part of the world, or country, has an accent, is a certain ethnicity, or because that person appears to have a certain ethnic background. Additionally, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also makes it illegal to discriminate against an applicant or employee because that person is married or has an association with a person of a certain National Origin, or if the person has a connection with any group or organization that is generally associated with a person of a certain National Origin.

Specifically, employers cannot institute workplace policies or practices that have a negative impact on people of a certain national origin, even if the policies are applied to everyone, if it is not job-related or essential to the function of the business. Similarly, employers cannot require English-only in the workplace unless speaking English is an essential element of the job. For example, an employer or supervisor cannot require individuals to speak English-only on a factory or warehouse floor because that employer or supervisor does not know the language the employees are speaking, or any other reason that does not directly relate to the essential function of the job being performed. Further, harassment, by an employer, supervisor, or co-worker, based on an individual’s national origin is also prohibited by Title VII. It is important to note that isolated incidents, or off-hand comments or “jokes” are not considered harassment. Harassment exists when these incidents and comments become so frequent and severe that it creates a hostile work environment.

The person engaging in Discrimination may be a manager, supervisor, or a co-worker. The person engaging in Discrimination may also be a customer or client of the employer. In essence, the harasser need not be employed by the employer. Also, the person engaging in discriminatory behavior can be of the same national origin as the victim – this is still considered discrimination under the law. Also, an individual who has suffered from national origin discrimination does not have to be of that national origin because the discrimination occurs when a person takes discriminatory action based on an assumed or imputed national origin of the individual.

The EEOC makes it illegal to subject employees to negative consequences associated with reporting discrimination or harassment, or participating in an investigation regarding discrimination or harassment. It is therefore illegal to demote, fire, refuse to promote, harass or otherwise “Retaliate” against employees who have reported discriminatory conduct. The Discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC forbid Retaliation in any aspect of employment including pay, promotion, layoff, fringe benefits, training, job assignment, hiring, firing and any other condition of employment.

In addition to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) prohibits employers from hiring and firing based on an individual’s citizenship or immigration status – which directly relate to an individual’s national origin. This type of discrimination usually occurs during the application process when an applicant is required to fill out an I-9 form, verifying his or her authorization to work in the United States, and provide necessary documentation. Decisions made based on the type of documentation provided, or the ethnicity/national origin of an applicant are prohibited. Therefore, in practicality, decisions based on an applicant’s national origin as it pertains to their assumed citizenship and immigration status may also be actionable under the IRCA. Similar to other anti-discrimination laws, the IRCA protects against retaliation for those who report discriminatory conduct.

Individuals who live on Long Island or in the New York Metro area, including Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island who have experienced national origin discrimination in the workplace should contact an employment discrimination attorney to properly assert your rights.

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