Brown Law Office 972-355-0092
Brown Law Office 972-355-0092
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Employer Law FAQ

What is National Origin Discrimination?

National origin discrimination occurs when an individual is denied equal employment opportunities because of their ethnicity, their ancestor's ethnicity, their appearance, their accent or their perceived ethnic background. Federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their national origin in employment decisions, including hiring, termination, promotions, transfers, trainings, lay-offs and assignments.

National origin discrimination can occur because an employer refuses to hire someone from a particular ethnic group, or because an employer insists on hiring people only from a specific ethnic group. Likewise, employers may not only hire members of certain national origin groups for certain employment positions, such as a policy only to hire Hispanic workers for kitchen positions. Additionally, employers cannot refuse to hire people because a customer, co-worker, contractor, business partner or other refuses to work with individuals of certain national groups.

Employers also can be held liable for supervisors, co-workers and even non-employees (such as independent contractors) who harass other employees based on their national origin. The harassment can include ethnic slurs, jokes and comments, offensive photographs or postings, for example. To be legally actionable, the harassment must rise to the level of conduct that is so severe and pervasive that the victim of the harassment reasonably believes the work environment has become hostile or abusive. Employers may be held liable for the national origin discrimination perpetuated by employees if the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take immediate action to prevent or stop it.

National origin discrimination also can occur if an individual is harassed or discriminated against based on their relationship or association with a person of a certain national origin group. For example, if employees harass a co-worker because she is married to a Muslim, this could be national origin discrimination.

Employers may not refuse to hire individuals because they have a foreign accent unless the employer can show that the accent will materially interfere with the employee's ability to perform his or her job duties. Also, effective oral communication skills must be a prerequisite for the position. Employers may not have a broad ban on hiring anyone for the position with an accent. Employers must assess the degree of interference the particular individual's accent has on his or her ability to perform the job.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces the national discrimination provisions of Title VII, while the Department of Justice enforces the national discrimination provisions of the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Individuals who believe their employers have discriminated against them based on their national origin may file a claim with the EEOC against their employers.

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Betty L. Brown
Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
in Labor and Employment Law
Fountain Park
1021 Long Prairie Road, Suite 402
Flower Mound, TX 75022
Phone: 972-355-0092
Fax: 972-899-9635
E-mail: betty@brownemploymentlaw.com