About Workplace Discrimination on the Basis of One’s Nationality or Nation of Origin

workplace discrimination

Most employers in California, either public or private, assert workplace diversity by promoting themselves as equal opportunity employers. This means that they widely accept individuals regardless of the class in which they belong, including their ancestry, ethnicity, or their countries of birth. As such, they are given equal rights in employment as other workers who were born and raised in the U.S. However, there are still instances wherein people of a certain nation of origin, ancestry or ethnicity are subjected to acts of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. Decades removed from the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, workplace discrimination on the basis of one’s nationality still occurs today.

What is nationality discrimination?

Discrimination because of national origin involves making adverse employment decisions towards an employee or applicant based on his or her ancestry, ethnicity, birthplace, or certain characteristics associated with his or her ethnicity, including his or her surname, accent, physical features, and cultural identity, among others. It is worth noting, however, that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which enforces laws that prohibit nation of origin discrimination, does not link nationality discrimination with race, color, or religion discrimination. These characteristics, race, color, religion, and nation of origin, are defined separately under EEOC’s guidelines and Title VII.

Basically, nation of origin discrimination may be either direct or indirect. On one hand, it is a direct form of discrimination if an employer denies an applicant a job because his or her surname is Hispanic-sounding (e.g. Reyes, Cruz). On the other hand, it is indirect discrimination if an employer decides to enforce an English-only policy on employees who speak Filipino or any other language. Either way, they are still illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).

What is considered illegal under anti-nation of origin discrimination laws?

The two aforementioned laws forbid this form of discrimination in any aspect of one’s employment, from hiring, termination, pay and compensation, job assignments, promotions, layoffs, and any other term or condition of employment. Any form of harassment is also illegal under these two laws. Uttering offensive or derogatory remarks on an employee’s place of origin, ethnicity, or ancestry is considered discrimination if it is done frequently that it promotes a hostile working environment, resulting in an adverse employment decision, including suspension or termination.

Also, employment practices that create a negative impact towards employees of a certain nation of origin, ethnicity, or ancestry are also prohibited. An example of such is on the English-only policies of many workplaces. The Title VII and the FEHA differ when it comes to this, especially in the issue of English-only policies in workplaces.

Seeking legal action for this form of workplace bias

Getting discriminated because of nationality, ethnicity or ancestry, is never a good thing. Most instances of this kind of workplace bias often revolves around stereotypes, and unfortunately, we still live in this day and age where people either directly or subtly hurt other people’s feelings through generalizations, double standards, and stereotyping. If you happen to be working in California and you have been subjected to this form of discrimination, then you must know that you can always seek the legal assistance of employment lawyers, as well as the EEOC and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).


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