San Francisco National Origin Discrimination Lawyer

What is National Origin Discrimination?

National original discrimination involves treating an employee differently because he or she is from a particular country, or has personal characteristics that are associated with a particular region of the world (including ethnicity, accent, or physical appearance).

National origin discrimination is a violation of both federal and state laws. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex, or retaliate against a person who is involved in bringing up a discrimination claim against an employer. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of many individual factors, including national origin, as well as retaliation for filing a complaint, testifying, or assisting in proceedings related to practices forbidden by the Act.

National origin discrimination in the workplace can fall under a few broad categories:

Language Discrimination

While employers may have legitimate business reasons to enforce language requirements in certain limited circumstances—for example to communicate with customers who speak English or another language, these requirements should be scrutinized to ensure that they are not in violation of federal and California law.

An employment decision based on language fluency or accent is deemed legitimate only if an employer can provide evidence demonstrating that (1) the effective spoken use of English (or other language) is necessary to perform job duties and (2) an individual’s fluency or accent interferes with his or her ability to communicate.

It would be unlawful, for example, to implement an “English-only” rule in the workplace in order to avoid hearing foreign languages spoken (for example, an English-only policy preventing foreign languages during break time), to generate a reason for terminating someone who is not a native English speaker, or to create a hostile work environment for non-English speakers (for example, harassment for speaking a foreign language).

Who Is Liable for National Origin Discrimination?

Under California law, an employer is liable when a manager or supervisor engages in national origin discrimination. Where a co-worker engages in national origin harassment, the employer is liable if it knew or should have known about the instances of discrimination and failed to take appropriate corrective action.

In addition, employers are liable for harassment by their customers or clients if they know or should have known about the harassment and fail to take action, regardless of the importance of the cust omer or client to the employer’s business.

Case Example

In Cordova v. State Farm Ins. Cos., the plaintiff alleged she was denied a position as a State Farm trainee agent on account of her national origin.  124 F.3d 1145 (9th Cir. 1997).  The plaintiff provided evidence that the Agency Manager who was responsible for selecting the trainee agent referred to another Hispanic agent as a “dumb Mexican” at some point after the promotion decision.  Id. at 1147.   The Ninth Circuit held that this comment “could be proof of discrimination against [plaintiff]” despite the fact the supervisor made the comment about another employee and it occurred after the hiring decision.  Id. at 1149.

Contact Us

At Rukin Hyland & Riggin LLP, our San Francisco discrimination attorneys represent employees who have suffered on account of their national origin or ethnicity. Please contact us today to set up a free consultation.