Some workers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are discriminated against by their coworkers because of their national origins. Under federal and state law, national origin discrimination in the workplace is illegal. Despite the legal prohibitions, this type of discrimination continues to be a problem at many companies. If you have been the victim of discrimination based on your national origin, the employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler might be able to help you.
What is a person’s national origin?
To understand national origin discrimination, you must first understand what national origin means in the context of anti-discrimination laws. Your national origin includes the following:
- Your linguistic characteristics that are commonly used within your ethnic group
- Your culture
- Your ancestry
- Your nationality
If you are treated unfairly at your job because of your national origin, you may have legal rights.
What is national origin discrimination?
National origin discrimination occurs when applicants and employees are treated badly because they originate from particular areas of the world or countries, because of their culture, accents, or ethnicities, or because they look like they come from a particular ethnicity even if they do not. Discrimination based on national origin can also include discriminating against employees because they associate with or are married to people of certain national origins. Finally, national origin discrimination can still occur when the perpetrator of the discriminatory conduct and the victim who was discriminated against share the same national origin.
Which employers are covered by the anti-discrimination laws against national origin discrimination?
Several state and federal laws prohibit national origin discrimination. At the federal level, this form of discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Under Title VII, employers who have 15 or more employees are covered by the prohibition against national origin discrimination. Under the IRCA, employers that have four or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees based on their immigration or citizenship statuses throughout all aspects of employment from hiring through firing.
In New Jersey, employees are protected against national origin discrimination by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. This act covers all employers in the state regardless of their sizes. In Pennsylvania, workers are protected against national origin discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. This law covers employers in the state that have four or more employees.
In what aspects of employment is national origin discrimination prohibited?
National origin discrimination at the workplace is prohibited during all aspects of employment, including the following:
- Advertising positions
- Job assignments
- Training opportunities
- Other conditions of employment
Harassment based on national origin
Workplace harassment based on a person’s national origin is also illegal. This can include derogatory remarks, offensive remarks, jokes, and other debasing conduct based on a person’s national origin. While isolated incidents of teasing are not prohibited, pervasive and severe comments can be illegal when they interfere with the ability of the victims to perform their jobs. Harassers can include the victims’ coworkers, direct supervisors, supervisors of other departments, clients, and customers.
Employment practices and policies
It is unlawful for employers to have employment practices and policies that have a disparate impact on people who have certain national origins when the policies or practices are not necessary for the business’s operations or are not related to the jobs.
One area where this is common occurs with English-only rules. Employers are only allowed to require their employees to speak fluent English if it is necessary for the effective performance of their jobs. English-only rules that require employees to only speak in English at work are only allowed if they are necessary for the safe operation of the employer’s company and are implemented for non-discriminatory reasons. Employers cannot base their employment decisions on the foreign accents of applicants or employees unless their accents would seriously interfere with their ability to perform their jobs. An example of when this might be allowed is in telemarketing when people are required to speak on the phone and their customers need to understand them.
Discrimination based on citizenship
Under the IRCA, employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants and employees based on their citizenship status. These protections do not cover unauthorized workers. Employers may not discriminate against people who are legally authorized to work in the U.S. because of their citizenship statuses in all aspects of employment. Employers are not allowed to refuse to hire someone simply because they are not a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident unless they are required to do so because of a government contract, regulation, or law. Employers cannot refuse to accept documentation that shows the employment authorization of a worker or to demand more documentation than what is lawfully required. Under the IRCA, employers are also forbidden from retaliating against people who have asserted their rights or who have filed a discrimination charge for citizenship discrimination against the employers.
Get help from the experienced employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler
If you believe that you have been unlawfully discriminated against because of your national origin by your employer or by a prospective employer, you need to talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. We can review the facts and circumstances of your potential claim and talk to you about your options. Contact us today to request a consultation by filling out our online contact form.