Overview of National Origin Discrimination Law:

The law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or job applicants because of their national origin. It protects U.S. citizens and nationals, permanent residents, temporary residents, refugees, and persons with asylum. An employer may not base its employment decisions on an employee’s birthplace, ancestry, culture, or accent. The law forbids national origin discrimination relating to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, benefits, or other conditions of employment.

It is also unlawful to harass a person because of his or her national origin. Harassment might include derogatory or offensive comments or jokes about a person’s national origin or accent. Although simple off-hand comments alone may not be illegal, if they occur frequently or are so severe in nature that they cause a hostile or offensive work environment, they may be unlawful harassment.

The law also protects employees from discrimination because of their marriage to or association with persons of a different national origin. Likewise, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee due to his or her membership in an association or organization that is identified with or promotes the interests of a national origin group. An employer may, however, make employment decisions based on national origin if doing so is reasonably necessary for normal business operations.

Potential Forms of National Origin Discrimination:

  • You have been demoted, fired, or denied compensation or benefits because of your national origin or because of the national origin of your family member, spouse, or friend.
  • Your employer treats you less favorably than other employees because you dress according to the customs of your native country, you talk with an accent, or you belong to a group that is associated with persons from a particular country or ethnicity.
  • Your employer does not allow persons from foreign countries, including you, to perform particular jobs even though you are capable of doing the work.
  • Your manager or co-workers often make jokes about you or harass you because you are from a different country.
  • A potential employer only hires U.S. citizens, or during an interview, asks you about your national origin or your citizenship status.
  • Your employer has an “English Only” rule that applies all of the time and has disciplined or terminated you for violating it even though speaking English is not required for the needs of the business.

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