Just as with race discrimination, it is illegal for an employer to treat you unfavorably because you are from a different part of the world or because of your birthplace, ancestry, cultural background, and/or physical or linguistic characteristics.
Examples of national origin discrimination include:
— An airline won’t allow anyone who appears to be from the Middle East to work in any position that involves dealing with passengers.
— A hardware store that serves a predominantly white neighborhood refuses to promote an employee who has adopted a traditional African style of dress.
— A Chinese restaurant hires only people with Asian features and surnames to wait on customers.
— Accent Rules: Unless an employee’s accent interferes with his or her ability to do the job – i.e., clients complain that they cannot understand your instructions – an employer cannot transfer an employee from a software help desk position to a less favorable position, which does not require customer contact
— English Only Rules: Unless an English-only rule is necessary to the business, an employer cannot prohibit employees from speaking any language other than English. If the employer imposes an English-only rule, the employer must tell employees when they have to speak English (for example, whenever customers are present) and the consequences of breaking the rule. The rule must be enforced consistently. Meaning that, an employer may not selectively enforce an English-only rule solely against employees who speak Spanish or another specific language.
Demonstrating illegal discrimination is challenging. Overt forms of discrimination – such as offensive remarks – are not as common in the present day workplace as subtle, passive aggressive forms of discrimination that are just as harmful. This is because employers often attempt to hide their discriminatory conduct under the guise of legitimate business decisions such as company reorganizations and layoffs to avoid liability. Pay special attention to whether there are true, legitimate business reasons justifying your employer’s alleged “business decisions.”
Although employers rarely make the mistake of putting a discriminatory reason in writing, discrimination can be proven with indirect evidence.
Our national origin discrimination attorneys can help you identify and gather persuasive evidence of discrimination to substantiate your potential claims against your employer. Otherwise, if it is just your word against your manager’s word, it will be difficult for you – if not impossible – to prove your claims.