Except for Native Americans, everyone in the U.S. has ancestors from another country or are immigrants themselves. Unfortunately, too many people forget that when they encounter someone with a “foreign” accent, name or appearance.
The same is true when they encounter someone of a different ethnicity from them (even if it’s merely an apparent one) that they have negative feelings about. Often those feelings aren’t based on any personal experiences they’ve had, but instead on persistent stereotypes.
What does national origin employment discrimination encompass?
National origin is one of the protected classes under both federal and New York state law in employment, housing and other essential aspects of life. Discrimination against employees (including harassment) or job applicants because of their actual or perceived national origin or that of their spouse or partner is illegal.
Discrimination based on national origin in the workplace can involve everything from hiring to pay and other benefits to job assignments, training and promotions to layoffs and firing.
Harassment is also discrimination
Supervisors and managers take most discriminatory actions that affect a person’s employment status because they have the power to do so. However, harassment can be done by anyone, from an employee’s subordinates, their peers and their managers.
National origin harassment can include someone making derogatory or offensive comments about another person’s or their ancestors’ birthplaces, their accent, ethnicity or articulating negative stereotypes about them.
Sadly, harassers can sometimes be people of the same national origin who join in just to fit in with their colleagues. Unfortunately, that gives others the impression that it’s acceptable.
This type of harassment is no more acceptable when it comes from a customer or client. Business owners have a responsibility to keep their workplaces free of harassment and discrimination. That sometimes means asking a customer to leave or cutting ties with a client.
If you’re suffering discrimination or harassment at work, it’s often best to start by talking to your manager or someone in your human resources department. It’s best to go in with a list of examples, with witnesses’ and alleged perpetrator names and dates documented, evidence (if you received offensive notes or emails) if applicable. If you don’t get a satisfactory resolution, then find out what your legal options are. An experienced attorney can provide guidance.