Both federal and California law prohibit national origin discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights act forbids discrimination at work based on the country where you were born, or your ancestry, culture, accent, or language.
In addition to Title VII, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it unlawful for a California employer to treat you unfavorably based on your national origin. It also makes it illegal to do so because of your association with a person, such as a spouse, based on his or her national origin.
Note that for both laws, national origin is separate from racial discrimination, which is when you are discriminated against for your physical characteristics and genetic traits that you share with a group, such as skin color, hair texture, or facial features.
If an employer has acted negatively towards you based upon your national origin, this constitutes illegal discrimination, even if the employer shares the same national origin. But how can you know if you have experienced this at work? Here are seven common examples of areas where you might see national origin discrimination in the workplace.
Common Signs of National Origin Discrimination at Work
1) Unlawful Hiring and Firing
An employer may not choose to hire someone because of their national origin, or choose to fire someone based on their national origin. If you were denied a position based on your national origin, then this constitutes employment discrimination, and if you were fired based on your national origin, then that counts as unlawful termination. Employers also cannot request more information than is legally required to prove your citizenship during the hiring process.
2) A Hostile Work Environment
It is illegal for other employees or clients to create a hostile work environment by verbally or physically abusing another employee for their national origin, or making jokes at the expense of an employee based on their national origin. The manager is also at fault if he or she enables the abuse to continue. Damage to your workspace or cyber bullying due to your national origin also constitute discrimination.
3) Exclusion from Training
National origin should not be a factor in training an employee or including them in project meetings. If a manager is deliberately excluding you from these activities or isolating you from other employees due to your national origin, then they are denying you the opportunity to work as an equal employee, and this constitutes discrimination.
4) Unfair Rules and Enforcement
It is illegal for managers to create rules or unfairly enforce existing rules based on your national origin. An example of this is if a manager only allows employees to speak a certain language at work, or if you are unfairly disciplined due to your national origin.
5) Workload Increases or Decreases
National origin should not be taken into account when deciding if you should be given more or less work, or if you are given a different type of work than other employees. It is illegal for a manager to give you more work and/or fewer hours than other employees, or to deny you breaks based on your national origin or ethnic stereotypes.
6) Denial of Pay and Benefits
If an employer has denied you a raise or has decreased your pay or benefits based on your national origin, then this constitutes discrimination. This can be directly correlated with a negative performance review that was based on national origin.
7) Negative Performance Reviews or Denial of Promotion
National origin should not be taken into account when your employer reviews your performance. This also applies if you are denied a promotion or tenure, or if standards for promotion are different based on your national origin, such as if you are a professor and are not granted tenure due to your country of origin.
Contact a California National Origin Discrimination Attorney
While those are the most common areas where workplace discrimination due to national origin could occur, the list does not necessarily end there. If your employer has subjected you to those illegal behaviors or others, and you feel that you are a victim of national origin discrimination, contact our experienced California employment attorneys today for a free consultation.