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California Employment Lawyers > Blog > Employment > What is National Origin Discrimination?

What is National Origin Discrimination?


You probably already know that it is illegal to discriminate in the workplace based on national origin. Many people just assume this means the same thing as “race,” but they are two different things, and legally, although discriminating on both is illegal, discrimination on the basis of national origin is a separate distinct category of discrimination.

National Origin Discrimination

National origin has to do with where somebody is from-the law prohibits discrimination because someone is from a different country, or a different culture.

Because things like accents also signify national origin, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of accents as well-although if speaking English is a clear necessity for safety reasons, employers can require only English be spoken in the workplace without that being considered national origin discrimination, and they can only discriminate on the basis of an accent, if the accent would have a significant impact on safety, or someone’s ability to do their job.

In some cases, even discrimination against someone for wearing clothing that is related to a country of origin, is illegal.

Perceived Origin

But someone doesn’t have to be from another country, in order to be a victim of national origin discrimination, and to be entitled to damages stemming from discrimination on the basis of national origin.

Even if someone is from the USA, but people at work think he or she is from somewhere else, and they discriminate against the employee, that can also form the basis of a national origin discrimination claim. Because we have so many Americans born in America, but whose lineage or ancestry is from another country, this is a common form of discrimination.

The employer cannot defend discriminatory behaviors by saying “but the employee was born in America.”

Hostile Work Environment

Just like with sexual harassment claims, it doesn’t have to be your boss that directly discriminates against you—even if your company or employer allows a hostile work environment to exist, that can form the basis of a discrimination claim.

So for example, if your employer allowed your co-workers to make jokes about people from the country you are from, or allowed other people to post things in the office that were offensive, or looked the other way while employees made derogatory remarks—all of these things could give rise to a hostile work environment claim.

Immigration Status Discrimination

Employers also cannot discriminate against you, or refuse to hire you, on the basis of your immigration status.

Obviously, they can refuse to hire you if it isn’t legal to do so—but as long as you are legally allowed to be in the country and do the work that you are doing (or applying to do), an employer cannot discriminate against you just because you are a legal immigrant or because of your immigration status.

Have you been discriminated against at work, or in hiring because of your national origin? We can help. Contact the San Jose employment lawyers at the Costanzo Law Firm today.




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