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Understanding national origin discrimination

There are many forms of illegal discrimination that are federally recognized when applied to the employment environment. One of these forms of discrimination is referred to as national origin discrimination. This makes it illegal for employees and job applicants to be treated unfairly because of their national origin.

If you believe that you have been affected by national origin discrimination in the workplace, it is a good idea to start by gaining a solid understanding of the law. After you have done this, consider taking further action to assert your rights.

What does the term "national origin" mean?

National origin, in this context, could refer literally to discrimination that took place because of the country you were born in. However, the definition can be broader than this. You may have been born in the United States, but you may still be affected by national origin discrimination. For example, if you have a certain accent that reflects your cultural heritage and an employer uses this as a reason not to hire you, you may be able to make a claim by citing national origin discrimination. Similarly, if you are presumed to be from a certain country even when you are not, and you are discriminated against because of this, you could also take legal action in some circumstances.

Employees and applicants are legally protected from both discrimination and harassment

As an employee or a job applicant, you are protected from unfair treatment based upon your actual or perceived national origin. In addition, you are protected from harassment based on your national origin. Harassment accounts for a wide range of behaviors that can be perpetrated by any employee, that generally cause the creation of a hostile environment.

What is meant by "a hostile environment"?

All workplaces should be environments where employees feel empowered and able to perform their work. If you are being subjected to jokes about the color of your skin, your accent or your national culture, you are unlikely to feel comfortable in the workplace. If you were to file a legal claim, you should be able to show that you felt excluded and embarrassed in the workplace: in other words, that you were in a hostile environment.

Take action to assert your rights if you have been affected by national origin discrimination.

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