National Origin

Discrimination & Harassment

Illegal national origin discrimination means treating a job applicant or employee unfavorably because that individual is from a particular country or because of the individual’s ethnicity and/or accent. Some examples of illegal national origin discrimination include discrimination because of:

  • marriage to, or association with, persons of a particular national origin;
  • membership in, or association with, ethnic groups;
  • attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples or mosques generally associated with a particular national origin; and
  • having a family name associated with a particular national origin.

The discriminator or harasser might be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee, such as a client or customer.

National origin discrimination can take many forms, including: refusing to hire individuals based on their nationality or because they have an accent; requiring non-Caucasian employees to provide additional identification or background documents authorizing them to work in the U.S.; discriminating against certain ethnic groups in terms of job assignments or compensation; and segregating or terminating certain employees based on alleged “customer preference” against certain ethnicities.

English-Only Policies

A rule requiring employees to speak only English at all times on the job may violate the law unless an employer shows it is necessary for conducting business. If an employer believes the English-only rule is critical for business purposes, it must inform employees when they must speak English and the consequences of violating the rule. Any negative employment decision based on breaking an English-only rule may be considered evidence of illegal national origin discrimination if the employer did not inform employees of the rule.


Federal and state laws prohibit employers from firing, demoting, harassing, or otherwise retaliating against an employee who complains about national origin discrimination. Complaining could mean, for instance, speaking to a superior, filing a complaint with Human Resources, filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, participating in a related legal proceeding, or any other type of conduct opposing discrimination. Even if the employee is wrong and the conduct is not illegal, the employee may be protected from retaliation if the complaint is based on a good-faith belief that discrimination occurred.

A retaliation claim is separate from a national origin discrimination claim. In other words, an employee need not prove that he or she was discriminated against in order to prove retaliation.

Individuals who believe they have experienced discrimination because of their race, heritage, ethnicity or national origin will find sensitive, skilled attorneys at Outten & Golden who are committed to advocating for victims of national origin discrimination. Please keep in mind that most employment laws have short time limits for filing claims and, as a result, it is best to seek legal advice as soon as you can.

Contact National Origin Discrimination Lawyers

If you believe you have been subjected to national origin discrimination or retaliation, please contact the firm through the ”Contact Us" form or by calling us in the New York, San Francisco or Washington, DC office (see bottom of page for phone numbers) to begin the Outten & Golden intake process.