National Origin Discrimination Lawyers

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Most Common Employment Law Issues:

What is National Origin Discrimination?

National origin discrimination is the treating of an individual of a different race, ethnicity, background, etc. differently.  Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 specifically addresses national origin discrimination.  In 2002, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received over 9,000 complaints based on national origin discrimination.

What are Types of Employment Discrimination?

Discrimination by an employer based on an employee’s national origin can happen during the following activities:

What about Customer Preference?

An employer may not discriminate against someone with a different national origin based on customer preference.  Requests by customers that wish to have an employee fired or excused based on national origin should not be considered.

What If the Employer Has an “English Only” Rule?

Discrimination against those able to speak multiple languages is not by itself discrimination. However, if the purpose of an “English Only” rule is to discriminate on the basis of national origin, then it would be illegal.

Rules which limit an employee’s ability to speak a language are more likely to survive if it is necessary for business. In order to prove business necessity, the rule should be reasonably related to the job, whether other languages are prohibited at all times or only at certain times, and whether the supervisors or other employees can speak the language.

A rule which requires employees to speak only English is most likely to be enforceable if the employees regularly interact with customers, if the employees are free to speak whatever language they like when the employees are not assisting customers, and if the supervisors cannot understand the employee’s other language.

What about Accents?

Accents are the manner in which a person speaks. People from different parts of the world speak differently and so are discrimination on the basis of an accent is often discrimination on the basis of national origin.

The most common and likely defense to an accent discrimination claim is that the employer can’t understand the person. This is a defense because being able to understand the employee is considered related to the job. In other words, if the employer can’t understand the employee, than the employee is not truly qualified for the job. This is especially important if the job involves customer interaction.

The other likely defense to accent discrimination is the claim that the employee just has a general communication problem. Since only accents are tied to national origin, saying that the employee has a hard time communicating in any manner, regardless of speech, is also a common defense.

Courts determine whether accent discrimination (or communication problems) is indicative of national origin discrimination by examining a number of factors. These factors include the level of communication required to perform the job, whether the speech was understandable to a non-biased listener, and whether accommodations can be reasonably given. 

What Steps Should I Take?

An employee that feels they have been discriminated against based on national origin has several options available.  These include:

Should I Consult an Attorney?

An experienced attorney in employment discrimination can be extremely valuable in assisting any employee in national origin discrimination issues.  The filing of a complaint and gathering of relevant evidence requires an attorney with experience.  In addition, an experienced attorney can help to guide an employee in any settlement arrangements. 

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Last Modified: 04-18-2013 10:23 AM PDT

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