What Should I Do if I Feel I’m Dealing with National Origin Discrimination at Work?

What Should I Do if I Feel I’m Dealing with National Origin Discrimination?

Too often, many people who have immigrated to the United States find they are treated poorly in both their personal and professional lives due to their national origin. In these situations, many of these people are unaware that the same laws that prohibit unfair treatment in the workplace apply to them as well, regardless of their immigration status. 

national origin discrimination

National origin discrimination may take many different forms. Under California and federal laws, it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee based on their birthplace, ancestry, foreign background, and/or any characteristics or traits that are attributed to a national origin. In addition, 8 U.S.C. §1324b, also prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee’s general immigration status. 

If you have suffered discrimination at work due to your national origin, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer. A seasoned Orange County employment lawyer can help, starting with a free initial consultation to discuss the facts of your case. 

Has Your Employer Discriminated Against You Based on National Origin ?

Employers may discriminate against an employee’s national origin in many different ways. Refusing to hire an employee based on their country of origin or enforcing an “English-only” rule in the workplace against certain employees (for no legitimate business purpose) are all different forms of discrimination. Other discriminatory practices include screening out applicants from the hiring process based on their last name, Hispanic workers solely being hired to work at Mexican food restaurants, or refusing to promote an employee because of their accent, unless special circumstances apply. 

In light of these discriminatory practices, Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibit employers from discriminating against employees based on their national origin, making the above actions illegal. In addition, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on any immigration-related basis (with few exceptions), including employees who are in the United States on a visa or any other immigration-related document. 

Note, under the IRCA, an employer is required to ask for documents from the employee to establish his or her eligibility to work in the United States. So long as they reasonably appear to be genuine, the employer may hire the employee to begin working. Also, it is important to note the IRCA does allow an employer to terminate the employee if they are not authorized to work in the United States, however, the employer cannot retaliate against the employee if he or she filed a discrimination complaint against the employer.

For Example:

Maria has worked at a manufacturing plant for 6 years. Maria was born in Guatemala, but moved to the United States and eventually became a naturalized citizen. One day, Maria was eating lunch with coworkers and was telling them about her upcoming trip to visit relatives in Guatemala. Her supervisor overhears her, and asks Maria if she is from Guatemala, which she confirms. The following week, Maria’s shifts are changed (after several years of working the same shift) and she begins to receive less favorable performance reviews. Maria is also asked to take on unpleasant tasks, such as cleaning the bathroom, which she has never been asked to do in the 6 years that she worked at the plant. No other employees in her position have ever been asked to clean the bathroom. In this situation, where Maria begins to receive unfavorable treatment after her manager learns that she was from Guatemala, Maria might have potential grounds for a lawsuit against her employer.

A slightly different set of facts could also demonstrate a different form of national origin discrimination. At Maria’s plant, many of the workers speak Spanish. It is not uncommon for workers to speak to each other in Spanish on the factory floor or during breaks. Suddenly, her employer institutes a policy that employees must only speak in English while at work. Although this type of rule applies to all employees equally, it has the effect of discriminating against people who do not speak English. Unless there is a legitimate business reason to institute such a policy (such as the need to communicate with customers in English), this policy may be discriminatory against employees based on their national origin.

National origin discrimination cases can be complex, particularly because employers often give different reasons for treating a particular employee differently in comparison to others. That is why it is so critical to work with a seasoned Orange County workplace discrimination attorney. Your lawyer will examine all of the facts of the case and put together a strong argument to show that you are being treated unfairly because of your national origin or ancestry — and help you achieve justice. 

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