National Origin Discrimination

Texas Employment Lawyer Kerry O'BrienThe Civil Rights Act of 1964, which just had its 50th birthday, protects employees and applicants for employment from being treated worse than others because of their national origin. National origin discrimination involves treating people (applicants or employees) unfavorably because they are from a particular country or part of the world, because of ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be of a certain ethnic background (even if they are not). An employer normally cannot treat you worse than other employees because you are, for example, Asian Indian, Persian, Chinese, Israeli, Palestinian, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican or on the basis of any other nationality. Also, an employer cannot discriminate against you because of your “color”. For instance, a business owner who is a lighter-skinned Indian from the north of India can not discriminate against an employee or applicant because they are a darker-skinned southern Indian. No one should ever be denied a legitimate job opportunity, or treated worse in their job, because of where they are from or the color of their skin.

When you’re treated differently because of your national origin, that’s discrimination. And when you are harmed by it, it’s illegal. Sometimes the evidence is clear and direct (specific comments) and sometimes it shows up through suspicious circumstances.

And when you’re retaliated against because you complained about national origin discrimination, that can be illegal as well.

Examples of some cases the O’Brien Law Firm has handled:

  • An Asian executive was pushed out by a new white supervisor while performing far better than his white counterparts.
  • A store manager was subjective selected for termination allegedly due to the fact that he has Iranian, which did not fit the store image.
  • A Palestinian employee was subjected to repeated derogatory name-calling by a native-born supervisor, using terms such as “towel head”, “rock thrower” and “terrorist”.

Q: I haven’t been fired, but I’m being harassed with insults from co-workers and a supervisor because I’m originally from Mexico. Is this legal?

No, not if the conduct is frequent and/or severe enough to rise to the level of “severe and pervasive” harassment – the legal standard required by our local courts. A single offhand comment about your national origin may be rude and unprofessional, but it probably doesn’t rise to the level of “severe and pervasive” such that you are in a true, illegal “hostile work environment” according to the law. However, a pattern of conduct over time, or less conduct of greater severity, may rise to that level and make for an illegal work environment. Talk to a board-certified employee rights attorney to discuss the details and see if you are in a position to take action and hold the employer accountable.

Q: “My boss keeps telling me and a co-worker that if continue to speak Spanish to each other, we could be fired. Can they do that?”

An “English-only rule”, which requires employees to speak only English on the job, is only allowed if it is needed to ensure the safe or efficient operation of the employer’s business and is put in place for nondiscriminatory reasons.

Q: “I speak English pretty well, but it’s not perfect, and I do have an accent. I think that’s why I didn’t get a job I interviewed for, because I was certainly the most qualified of the candidates that were interviewed. Can an employer deny me a job based on English fluency, or an accent?”

No, an employer can only require an employee to speak fluent English if fluency in English is necessary to perform the job effectively.

What’s the process if you’ve been discriminated against based on your national origin?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) LogoFor discrimination cases in Austin, you have to first file a “charge of discrimination.” The O’Brien Law Firm normally files our clients’ charges of discrimination with the San Antonio Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Austin doesn’t have its own EEOC field office because the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division handles much EEOC work under a work-sharing agreement, and they are already based in Austin.) Dallas/Fort Worth-area discrimination cases are filed with the EEOC Dallas District Office. Houston-area cases are filed with the EEOC Houston District Office. You only have the right to file a lawsuit against the employer after the EEOC (or the TWC-CRD) has completed its investigation and issued you a notice giving you the right to sue the employer.

At that point, you usually have 90 days from your receipt of the EEOC notice (60 days from receipt of a TWC-CRD notice) to file your lawsuit. So, don’t wait until you get your right-to-sue notice to start looking for a board-certified employment attorney to help you. Our firm has worked with the San Antonio, Dallas and Houston EEOC investigators on a substantial number of investigations and can be a great asset to leveraging a satisfying result against an employer who is willing to negotiate early to resolve a violation. And if they aren’t – we are ready to use your skill and experience to get you justice in court and hold the employer accountable for the sake of protecting future job applicants and employees like you from the same type of job discrimination.

If you think you may have been discriminated against because of your national origin, call the O’Brien Law Firm NOW at (512) 410-1960, set up a FREE phone consultation or fill out the form below so that we can get to know you and your situation. Your information is confidential and the form submission goes directly to attorney Kerry O’Brien for his review. 

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