Discrimination in the workplace is a massive problem in California and throughout the United States. Despite the establishment of federal, state, and local entities to investigate these issues, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the California Equal Employment Rights and Resolution Office (EER&R), and Orange County equal rights groups, some individuals continue to believe their biases trump employee rights.
Indeed, the federal EEOC investigated 72,675 allegations of workplace discrimination during the most recent fiscal year. Over half of these were motivated by retaliation, while a sizable portion were motivated by race, sex, age, or national origin – or a combination of these factors. Discrimination in employment or the workplace on the basis of any of the aforementioned factors is illegal under federal, state, and local law.
If you believe you have been or are currently the victim of national origin discrimination, it is critical to seek the assistance of an Orange County national origin discrimination attorney. In the meantime, this guide to national origin discrimination can assist you in learning more about national origin, determining whether you have truly experienced discrimination, identifying the necessary steps to prove national origin discrimination, and gaining an understanding of what to expect when pursuing workplace litigation. Then, contact California Employment Counsel for a free consultation to discuss the specifics of your case.
Discrimination, in general, refers to treating someone unfairly or differently than others. While discrimination can occur in a variety of settings, including schools, private relationships, and public spaces such as a retail store or physician’s office, the California Employment Counsel focuses exclusively on workplace and employment discrimination. Discrimination in the workplace and employment can occur at the hands of coworkers at your level, managers, supervisors, hiring managers, human resource professionals, and others – even those in the C-suite (corporate) levels. Indeed, workplace and employment discrimination frequently becomes more severe and damaging to employees or applicants as it occurs among those in a company’s upper echelons who make hiring, wage, and other employment-related decisions.
Discrimination can take a variety of forms in the workplace. Workers and job applicants are protected by federal, state, and local laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, genetic information, religion, age (if over 40), or disability. Violations of workplace and employment laws may include the following:
Unfair or unethical treatment as a result of any of the factors listed
Harassing behavior on the part of a supervisor, manager, or coworker as a result of these factors
Denial of a reasonable request for a workplace change based on your religious beliefs or a disability
Forcible disclosure or improper interrogation regarding the aforementioned factors
Unfair hiring practices as a result of the aforementioned factors
Employees or superiors retaliating against you for reporting any discriminatory behavior
Employers, government entities, and even federal, state, and local laws have historically discriminated against “protected classes.” As a result, the federal government enacted a series of civil rights laws, most notably Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to safeguard nine protected classes:
Distinction (including color, protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964)
Origin of Nationality (CRA of 1964)
Religious belief (CRA of 1964)
Sexuality (including sexual orientation and gender identity under the CRA of 1964 and pregnancy under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act)
Affluence (for those 40 and over under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967)
Status of Disabilities (Americans with Disabilities Act)
Status as a service member or veteran (Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Act)
Status of the Family/Children (CRA of 1968)
Genetic Data (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act)
California has defined additional protected classes not covered by federal regulations and has supplemented existing federally protected classes. California, for example, includes gender expression alongside sexual orientation and gender identity, and has chosen to include cancer and HIV/AIDS as disabling conditions. The most pertinent example here is California’s decision to expand protections against national origin discrimination.
In the context of hiring and employment, national origin discrimination refers to any unfavorable treatment of applicants or employees on the basis of their origins (or appearances) in a particular region of the world. In the majority of cases, workplace national origin discrimination occurs when a hiring manager, supervisor, or coworker treats an individual unfairly on the basis of their belief that they were born in or have ancestors from another country or exhibit cultural or linguistic characteristics as a result of their origin.
Discrimination may occur in some instances when an employer or supervisor believes an employee is of a particular national origin or illegal immigration status. For instance, if an employee appears to be of a particular national origin but is not, the law defines unequal treatment as national origin discrimination. Similarly, if an employee associates with/marries someone of a particular national origin but is not of that national origin and is subjected to workplace discrimination, the discriminating party has violated the law.
As with any other protected class, employees who face discrimination based on their national origin may face a variety of forms of unfair treatment in the workplace. Discrimination based on national origin can occur during the hiring process or in the workplace. While national origin discrimination is most financially detrimental when perpetrated by hiring managers and supervisors, it can also occur in interactions with coworkers, contractors, and even clients.
Discrimination based on national origin is frequently manifested in the following ways:
Harassment on the basis of national origin. National origin, like other protected classes, makes it illegal for anyone to harass another employee because of their country of origin or an inaccurate perception of their country of origin. While teasing or the occasional remark is obviously wrong, the law protects victims of harassment. As such, remarks become harassment when they are repeated and contribute to the creation of a hostile work environment.
Employment decisions based on national origin. Hiring managers, supervisors, human resource personnel, and other workplace officials are prohibited from making discriminatory decisions based on an individual’s country of origin. Employment decisions such as hiring, termination or layoff, pay reductions, adverse job assignments, promotion, training prohibitions, benefit offerings, and any other employment decision cannot be the result of discriminatory practices.
Policies relating to national origin in the workplace. Employers may not establish workplace-wide rules that are deemed unnecessary for business operations and have an unjustifiable adverse effect on a particular national origin group – even if the policies apply to all employees. This rule also applies to personnel policies. For example, an employer cannot require all employees to speak fluent English on the job unless English-only or fluent English is required to safely perform daily business activities. Similarly, hiring managers cannot disqualify a candidate for being bilingual or speaking with an accent unless they can demonstrate that the employee’s accent would prevent them from safely and efficiently performing their job duties. Employers must demonstrate that the rule is necessary for the efficient or safe operation of their business and must consistently enforce it. For instance, an English language requirement must be applied uniformly to all employees regardless of national origin. A similar rule cannot be applied to employees who are not performing job-related duties, such as when they are on break or conversing in another language with another employee or customer. In general, language rules should apply only to job-related activities and be concise and specific in their definitions.
Discrimination against citizens based on their national origin. While Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes no reference to immigration status, both California state law and the 1986 federal Immigration Reform and Control Act do. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on their actual or perceived immigration and citizenship status under the law. Employers may not establish a private workplace policy requiring them to hire only United States citizens (or those easily perceived to be United States citizens) unless another law or regulation requires it. Employers may require documentation establishing the prospective employee’s eligibility for employment, which is typically a federal form I-9. The employer, on the other hand, cannot refuse to believe the information on the form or request additional information. Additionally, it is illegal to discriminate against the employee in the ways listed above based on the information contained on the verification form regarding national origin.
Retaliation against those who report. Employers may not make adverse employment decisions in retaliation for an employee or prospective employee reporting any of the aforementioned forms of national origin discrimination. For instance, an employer may