It is illegal under both federal and California law for an employer or a fellow employee to harass or punish an employee (or a potential employee) because of that employee’s national origin. “National origin” can include a person’s birthplace, ancestry, or cultural or linguistic characteristics. An employee who believes he or she has been discriminated against in the workplace because of national origin can sue the employer, file a complaint, or take another action.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 are federal laws that make national origin discrimination illegal. Under California law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act makes workplace discrimination based on national origin illegal.

By law, employers are forbidden from making hiring or firing decisions, choosing which employees to promote or give raises or benefits to, or other decisions based on nation origin. Employees also cannot be harassed based on their national origin.

Harassment may include ethnic slurs, jokes, or rude stereotypes based on national origin. The harassment can’t just occur once, though. The harassment must be so serious or occur so often that it seriously impacts employment conditions. The harassment may be done not only by an employer – it may also be done by a co-worker, customer or client. Employees also may not be discriminated against based on whom they are associated with.

Some of the common reasons people are discriminated against which are based on national origin include discrimination based on language or accent, discrimination based on perceived national origin, and discrimination based on physical or cultural traits. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on physical traits or clothing that is associated with a particular country or region.

There is a wide variety of conduct that could constitute national origin discrimination. Some examples include making jokes about people from a certain country, firing someone because of who they are married to, making a Muslim woman take off her headscarf at work, mistakenly refusing to hire someone because he’s believed to be of a certain nationality, and failing to promote an employee because of her accent.

An employee who has been discriminated against because of national origin may file a complaint with the employer, and that could make the harassment stop. In some cases, it may be necessary to sue the employer in state or federal court. The employee may be entitled to lost wages, other damages, and in some case may be reinstated at his or her job.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes no employer should allow national origin discrimination in the workplace. If you are in the Oakland area, including San Francisco, Fairfield, Tracy, Hayward, and Berkeley, and you have faced national origin discrimination, call Micha Star Liberty at 415-896-1000 or 510-645-1000.

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