Discrimination Against Someones National Origin

Under federal and state law, it’s illegal for an employer or another person in the workplace to harass or take any negative actions against an employee because of that person’s national origin. “National origin” can include a person’s ancestry, birthplace, cultural characteristics, or linguistic characteristics. Therefore, a person who believes he or she has been discriminated against at work because of national origin can file a complaint or sue for that discrimination.

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

National Origin Discrimination is Illegal in California

Under federal and state laws, employers are forbidden from deciding whom to hire or fire, promote, or give raises or benefits to based on nation origin. Employees can’t be harassed based on their national origin. Harassment can include offensive jokes, insensitive stereotypes based on national origin, and the use of ethnic slurs. The harassment must be so frequent or severe that it seriously impacts the conditions of employment. The harassment doesn’t have to be done by an employer or supervisor – if a co-worker, client or customer engages in the harassment, that can also constitute national origin discrimination. Employees also cannot be discriminated against based on whom they are married to or are associated with.

Some of the common reasons people are discriminated against which are based on national origin include:


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.

Language or Accent

  • Employees cannot be discriminated against based on their accents or manner of speaking. Employees cannot be required to speak English only in the workplace unless it’s absolutely necessary for conducting business.

Perceived National Origin

  • Employees are also protected from discrimination based on perceived national origin, even if that assumption is incorrect.


  • If an employee speaks more than one language, and is expected to do more work based on that status than other employees without extra pay, that could be considered discrimination based on national origin.


Common Examples of National Origin Discrimination

There is a wide variety of conduct that could constitute national origin discrimination. Some examples include:

  • Refusing to hire someone because he was believed to be a Mexican, when he was actually Spanish.
  • Making a Muslim employee remove her headscarf while she’s at work.
  • Making jokes about Chinese people around Chinese employees.
  • Firing someone because you find out she is married to a Jewish man.
  • Failing to give a promotion to a Russian woman, although she’s the most qualified, because of her accent.
  • Laying off the “foreign” employees first.

An employee or potential employee who has experienced discrimination in California because of national origin may file a complaint with the employer, and hopefully that will make the harassment stop. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to sue the employer under state or federal law. The employee may be entitled to lost wages, other damages, and in some case may be reinstated at his or her job.

Contact California Employment Right Lawyers

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes no employee should be discriminated against because of his or her national origin. 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. She will help you hold the employer responsible. Call today.

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