There are a variety of reasons someone may face discrimination in the workplace — and none of them are good.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws and their state equivalents prohibit discrimination for a variety of reasons, including one’s national origin.
How can you spot national origin discrimination?
National origin discrimination commonly occurs when your employer, co-workers or customers treat you less favorably based on your presumed national origin based on their accent or apparent ethnicity (even if you don’t actually belong to a certain ethnic group).
Federal law also prohibits employers from treating workers differently because they have married or are otherwise affiliated with someone from a certain national origin. It’s also unlawful for a person of the same national origin to inflict discriminatory behavior on their colleague. For example, caste discrimination between two immigrants from India could fall under that category.
Which types of discriminatory activities are unlawful?
Existing laws prohibit employers from discriminating against workers based on their ethnic or national origin. Employers can’t fire, refuse to hire, pay less, assign menial tasks, neglect to promote, furlough or deny fringe benefits to an employee because of their place of origin.
Those same laws also make it unlawful for employers, colleagues and others to engage in harassment due to a person’s national origin. Harassment can include derogatory or offensive comments based on someone’s accent, ethnicity or national origin. Any teasing that is so frequent and prevalent that it creates a hostile work environment is also illegal.
Your rights if you suffered national origin discrimination
You have a right to be fairly evaluated for a job vacancy and to receive all the same benefits that come with a job without fear of suffering disparate treatment. You may be able to recover compensation if your employer engages in or is permissive of discrimination in your workplace.