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Discrimination Based On National Origin In The Workplace

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against their employees on the basis of national origin under federal, state, and local laws.

This means that your employer cannot use your nationality, ancestry, or specific characteristics associated with your national origin to make employment decisions or to treat you less favorably than other employees.

If you are a victim of workplace discrimination based on your national origin, you may be able to file a lawsuit or administrative complaint against your employer.

This article contains information about anti-discrimination laws based on national origin, but it is not legal advice or a substitute for seeking legal counsel. Only an experienced employment discrimination attorney can assist you in comprehending your rights.


What is the concept of national origin?

The term “national origin” refers to characteristics associated with a person’s or ancestor’s country of origin. These may include the following:

  • Birthplace;

  • Characteristics of a culture or language, such as an accent;

  • Name or the surname of a spouse that is associated with a particular national origin group;

  • Marriage to or association with a member of a group of national origin;

  • Membership in or affiliation with an organization dedicated to the advancement of a group of national origin; and

  • Attendance at or participation in schools or places of worship frequented by individuals of a particular national origin group.


Which Laws Cover Discrimination Based on National Origin?

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is the primary federal law addressing workplace discrimination on the basis of national origin. This federal law prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

Title VII has been the basis for many of the most significant employment discrimination cases involving national origin and provides critical protections for workers against workplace discrimination and harassment.

State and local laws also prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of national origin or ancestry.


Is Title VII Required for All Employers?

Title VII is applicable to private, state, and local government employers with 15 or more employees on each working day of the current or preceding calendar year.

Title VII also applies to labor unions, employment agencies, and federal government employers, but claims involving these entities are subject to different rules.

Even if your employer has fewer than 15 employees, you may be covered by Title VII depending on your employer’s relationship with its affiliated companies and the number of employees at those companies. Anti-discrimination statutes apply to all employers, regardless of size, in some states.


Examples of Discrimination in the Workplace Based on National Origin

Employers can discriminate in a variety of ways based on national origin. The following are some examples:

When employees with Asian surnames miss work or are late for a shift, a department store punishes them more severely than white employees.

A restaurant tolerates ethnic slurs directed at Latino employees and does not discipline white employees for posting offensive cartoons in the breakroom disparaging Mexican immigrants.

A call center will not hire anyone for customer service positions who appears to be from the Middle East or Africa.

A Vietnamese restaurant employs only individuals with Asian characteristics and surnames.