National Origin Discrimination

Your Nationality Shouldn't Matter

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, foreign-born workers made up approximately 17 percent of the workforce in 2021. These millions of workers, representing hundreds of nationalities, are protected from discrimination due to their country of origin under both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Texas Labor Code. Your employer cannot take adverse action against you because of your nationality. If you have been fired, demoted, lost opportunities for training or advancement, or lost a job opportunity due to your national origin, you have suffered an adverse action. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 also makes it illegal for employers to treat workers or applicants differently because of their immigration or citizenship status. If you have a work visa or are a permanent resident, an employer cannot choose to hire a less qualified American citizen over you.

What Discrimination Because of National Origin Looks Like

Employees who speak accented English often face discrimination in the workplace. They may find that workers with accents are not able to work in certain positions, or that less qualified employees who speak English without an accent are regularly promoted over them. Both of those situations are adverse actions taken against you by your employer. Title VII makes it illegal to do things like that. It does not matter if your employer intends to target specific nationalities or not. If your boss discriminates against you due to your accent, you should contact one of our Austin workplace discrimination lawyers.

Sometimes, employers will tell their employees that they are prohibited from speaking any language other than English on the job. These "English-only" rules are only allowed when they are absolutely necessary for the business to operate safely and effectively. And such a restriction is rarely necessary for a business. If you can speak English, even if you have an accent, your job should not take your accent into account when making decisions about you.

Workers sometimes find that they are the target of discrimination because of their coworkers' beliefs about people of their nationality. For example, a company president may routinely prevent Italian employees from being promoted to positions of responsibility because it is his belief that Italians are naturally corrupt. A Somalian employee may notice that her coworkers regularly make jokes about her "pirating" office supplies, and that rumors of that nature have negatively affected her bosses' perception of her. In both of these situations, their fellow workers' actions may constitute national origin discrimination under the law. Employees have a right to be treated equally, regardless of their nationality.

Hostile Environment Based on National Origin

Workers often find that their coworkers poke fun at their accent or make hurtful comments about their nation of origin. These hurtful remarks often make use of damaging ethnic stereotypes or misconceptions about that worker's nationality. When harassment in the workplace is so severe or pervasive that it affects the terms and conditions of employment, that may be a hostile environment because of national origin discrimination. A claim based on the existence of a hostile environment does not require the company to take a tangible adverse action or make an ultimate employment decision. All workers have a right to be free of a hostile environment because of their national origin. It does not matter if your coworkers are correct about your nationality. If you face constant harassment because your coworkers believe you to be Egyptian, you will have a claim even if you are actually Greek.

When Should You File a Claim?

In general, you have anywhere from 180 days (under state law) to 300 days (under federal law) to file a claim about national origin discrimination. These deadlines can be quick, so if you are a victim of such discrimination, it's important that you talk to an attorney as soon as possible. If you think you've been discriminated against because of your nationality, or if you think you have a case, please contact us today. Our Austin workplace discrimination lawyers can help enforce your rights in front of the TWC or EEOC. You can do so by filling out our contact form or calling our office at (512) 271-5527.

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