National Origin Discrimination


Were you harassed at work because of where you are from, what you wear, or how you speak? Did an employer refuse to hire you because of your race, religion, or ethnicity? National origin discrimination encompasses a wide array of discriminatory practices in workplaces. If a company, boss, or co-worker has treated you poorly, and you believe the misconduct is related to your national origin, you may be entitled to compensation.

The law forbids national origin discrimination in any form of employment, including the hiring, firing, amount of compensation, job assignments, promotion, training, fringe benefits or any other term, condition or privilege of employment.

Discrimination Based on National Origin

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects individuals from discrimination based on their national origin. National origin discrimination in employment involves treating individuals, employees and applicants, unfavorably based on their national origin, including individuals being from a particular country or region. This type of discrimination can include discriminating against individuals based on their ethnicity, accent or their perceived ethnic background, regardless of whether they are actually from that particular ethnic background. Further, the law protects individuals regardless of whether the victim and harasser are of the same national origin.

Under federal law, harassing an individual based on their national origin amounts to discrimination. This type of harassment includes offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s national origin.  The law does not protect simple teasing or isolated offhand comments. The law is targeted at harassment that is so frequent and severe such that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or results in an adverse employment decision, such as being fired or demoted.
While lawful on their faces, clever employers often construct policies that apply to everyone, no matter their national origin. These policies often have the effect of discriminating against certain individuals based on their national origin and are often not related to the job or the necessary operation of the business. For example,  many employers enact “English-only” rules to weed out immigrants. While generally unlawful, these types of policies are allowed if they are needed to ensure safe, efficient operation of the business and are not put in place for the implicit purpose of discriminating against individuals from certain nations or regions of the world. An employer may not base an employment decision on a employees accent unless it seriously interferes with that individual’s ability to perform their job.

What is the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)?

In 1986, Congress enacted the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), making it illegal for an employer to discriminate with respect to the hiring, firing or recruitment or referral for a fee, based upon a person’s citizenship or immigration status.  The IRCA was designed to prohibit employers from exclusively hiring US citizens, or lawful permanent resident, unless required to do so by law or government contract. The IRCA forbids employers from refusing to accept lawful documentation which establishes employment eligibility, or demand additional documentation beyond what is legally required by the Department of Homeland Security, leaving the choice in the hands of the employee to determine which Form 1-9 documents to show to verify employment eligibility. The IRCA also prevents employers from retaliating against individuals for asserting their rights under the Act, to include filing charges or assisting an investigation proceeding under the IRCA. The IRCA claims are enforced by the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel For Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices.
Ethnic discrimination is virtually synonymous with a nation of origin discrimination.

There are four main components of ethnic discrimination:

1. Employment discrimination based on your place of origin.

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against an individual based on where you are from or the country/location your ancestors originated from. These protections are extended to areas who are not recognized as a nation, for instance, refugees from a defunct government are covered by this act.

2. Employment discrimination against a national origin group.

A “national origin group” is usually categorized as an ethnic group who share similar cultural traits, including:

  • Ethnicity – Membership of an ethnic group is often defined as shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language and/or dialect and sometimes ideology, manifests itself through symbolic systems such as religion, mythology and ritual, cuisine, dressing style, physical appearance, and more.
  • Physical, linguistic, or cultural traits – Employment discrimination against an individual because she has physical, linguistic, and/or cultural characteristics closely associated with a national origin group, for example, discrimination against someone based on her traditional African style of dress

3. Employment discrimination based on perception.

An employer is prohibited from discriminating against an individual for being a part of a particular ethnic group, even if the individual does not identify with that culture. This could include harassing you because an employer or co-worker thinks you are a member of a particular racial, religious, or ethnic group whether or not that perception is correct.

4. Employment discrimination based on affiliation or association.

Your employer cannot harass or discriminate against you because you associate with a person of a particular national origin.
Our skilled attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, Pllc have years of experience litigating claims based on national origin and are prepared to give you the representation you deserve.

Is Citizenship a Protected Class?

Under IRCA, citizenship is a protected class. Congress passed this Act because employers are often hesitant to hire individuals who look or sound foreign. Citizenship status is different from the nation of origin, however, the IRCA protects both classes.

Contact Our National Origin Discrimination Attorneys

If you are unsure if your situation qualifies as national origin, race, or religious discrimination, let an employment discrimination attorney at the Derek  Smith Law Group, PLLC review your discrimination case. We offer no-cost, no-obligation consultations to prospective clients. Our employment law firm operates on a contingency fee basis – if we fail to recover money on your behalf, we do not get paid. Contact us at 800-807-2209 or fill out a contact form for a free consultation.


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With over 25 years of experience, we have represented thousands of employment discrimination victims. We have recovered millions for our clients, including the largest emotional distress jury verdict in an employment law case ever to be sustained on appeal!

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