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National origin discrimination at work

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2023 | Employment Law

It’s unlawful for an employer to treat an employee or applicant unfavorably because they are from a particular country/part of the world, or because they are married to or associated with someone of a certain national origin. Besides the employer, the harasser can be a supervisor, coworker or client. 

Below are three examples of national origin discrimination in the workplace:

English-only rule

Requiring employees to speak English at all times at work can be discriminative. However, this restriction may be permissible if the employer can prove certain elements, including that the language restriction is justified by business necessity, the restriction is narrowly tailored and they effectively notified employees of when to observe the restriction and the consequences of not doing so.

Making decisions based on accent

It may be unlawful for an employer to make decisions based on an applicant’s or employee’s accent unless the employer can prove the accent materially interferes with the effective performance of the job.

Derogatory statements or jokes

Seniors or colleagues making disrespectful statements or jokes about someone’s country, accent or ancestry may be discriminative. Simple teasing or isolated incidents that are not serious may not be unlawful. However, one should be concerned when the comments are offensive and frequent, creating a hostile work environment.

What to do when you experience national origin discrimination

If you experience national origin discrimination, it will help to report the situation to the human resources (HR) department whether the harasser is a senior or coworker. This allows you to get a solution according to your company’s anti-discrimination policy and have records of internal reporting when you consider other options. 

If you are discriminated against at work because of your national origin, you should obtain more information about your case to protect your rights.