It is illegal for your employer to discriminate against you based on your place of birth, ethnicity, ancestry or any other issues related to ethnicity, such as your surname, cultural identity, and accent. The problem with discrimination against national origin is that it isn’t always direct and can take many forms, which means that people often don’t realize their situation falls under Title VII.
Understanding National Origin Discrimination
Discrimination against a person based on national origin can be direct or indirect. For example, a case of direct discrimination would be one where a manager won’t hire anyone hailing from Poland or refuses to even grant interviews to people whose surnames sound Hispanic. Some indirect—or more subtle—examples include an employer forcing only their employees from the Middle East to speak nothing but English or an employer not allowing employees to wear clothing that shows their ethnicity.
National origin discrimination is generally the result of stereotypes and what the employer believes people from a specific country or area are like. In some cases, the employer might not hold the stereotype but thinks that his customers do. For example, an airline that refuses to give a person who is or looks like he is from the Middle East a position in which he has to deal with customers. The airline might think the person is a marvelous employee and have no qualms but it does believe its customers will have a problem—or be afraid of—dealing with someone from the Middle East.
Some more examples include:
A store owner refusing to promote an employee because he or she chooses to dress in a traditional African style but the customers are mainly white;
A Japanese restaurant refusing to hire anyone who doesn’t have Asian features or an Asian surname to interact with customers;
A grocery chain being harsher in punishing Latino employees for being later or making mistakes than it is on its other employees.
What about Someone’s Accent?
A person’s accent is closely connected to their national origin, but in some situations, employers can make job-related decisions based on a person’s accent. However, the employer has to prove that the accent would seriously interfere with the employee carrying out his or her job responsibilities effectively.
For example, if you have a heavy accent and work in the customer service department, your employer might choose to transfer you to another job where you won’t be in contact with customers. If this is done because customers have complained they can’t understand you, then the employer is fully within his rights. However, if you were transferred because of what you are accent is and not because it affected your job performance, then it would be illegal.
Figuring out whether you have a national origin discrimination case can be complicated, especially since some actions can be so subtle you don’t even realize you’re being discriminated against. This is why it is imperative for you to discuss your situation with a qualified lawyer who specializes in cases of discrimination in the workplace.
Intolerable Behavior in Our Society
At Makarem & Associates, our team is fully qualified to help you with your case. We have extensive experience with a wide range of employment cases and have helped people with their workplace discrimination problems. Call us today at 310.312.0299 or send us an email at [email protected] so we can discuss the particulars of your situation and come up with a plan of action. Whatever you do, don’t let your employer get away with discriminating against you, especially since the law is on your side.