What constitutes national origin discrimination in the workplace?

Laws on the federal, state and city levels offer protections against national origin discrimination in workplaces in New York. Following are the laws that provide those protections:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)
  • The New York State Human Rights Law
  • The New York City Human Rights Law

Workplace discrimination can be subtle or blatant. With that in mind, let’s consider what constitutes discrimination based on national origin.

Employers and co-workers are prohibited from discriminating against or harassing you on the basis of your ancestry, your accent, your culture, your last name, your immigration status or where you were born. All aspects of employment, including the hiring and promoting processes, are covered under anti-discrimination laws.

Some employers have tried to implement “English-only” rules when such rules have no bearing on safe and efficient business operations. This kind of rule-making is illegal.

It is also illegal for an employee to be discriminated against on the basis of his or her association with a particular ethnic group or national origin. For example, if you are married to a person from another country or cultural group, then your employer and co-workers may not discriminate against you on the basis of your spouse’s national origin or perceived cultural identity.

In some cases, mistreatment based on national origin comes from a person who is of the same national origin as the person who is mistreated. This kind of discrimination is also illegal.

The number of employees who work at a company may factor into which anti-discrimination laws apply. Our overview of national origin discrimination has more on these matters.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “National Origin Discrimination,” Accessed Aug. 26, 2014

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