National Origin Discrimination Laws in Texas

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commision reports that in the fiscal year of 2015, approximately eleven percent of the 89,385 private sector charges filed with the Commission alleged national origin discrimination.

Not only is national origin discrimination a particularly common type of discrimination in the workplace, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also recently made some revisions regarding discrimination in the workplace based on a worker’s national origin.

In November 2016, for the first time in fourteen years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated the agency’s guidelines on national origin discrimination by addressing new types of national origin discrimination, clarifying the definition of “national origin” and better informing employers about how this type of discrimination occurs.

What Constitutes National Origin Discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employer actions that have the purpose or effect of discriminating against individuals due to their real or perceived nationality. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines national origin discrimination as discrimination that occurs because an individual or that individual’s ancestors have the characteristics of a particular national group.

There are four ways in which national origin discrimination can occur:

  1. Discrimination Based on One’s Place of Origin. Employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on where they are from or the nationality of the individual’s ancestors.
  2. Discrimination against a National Origin Group. A “national origin group” refers to an ethnic group that shares similar cultural traits. National origin can be based on membership in an ethnic group that is shaped by similar ancestry, cultural, history, homeland, ideology, language, dialect, religion, dressing style, physical appearance, or any other identifying factor. This category can also include discrimination against an individual with a physical or cultural characteristic that is often associated with a national origin.
  3. Discrimination Based on Perception. This type of discrimination can be made against individuals who are believed to belong to a certain ethnic group even if that individual does not identify with that culture at all.
  4. Discrimination Based on Affiliation or Association. Discrimination can occur against an individual because that individual is associated with a person of a particular national origin. National origin discrimination can also include treating an individual unfavorably because the individual is married to a person of a certain national origin.

Examples of National Origin Discrimination

Discrimination due to national origin can involve any aspect of the employment process including: benefits, firing, hiring, job assignments, layoffs, payment, promotions, and employee training. Harassment can include, but is certainly not limited to, offensive or derogatory remarks about an individual’s national origin or ethnicity.

While offhand comments or teasing alone likely will not create a case for discrimination, when these types of comments are frequently made then a hostile or offensive work environment can be created.

National origin discrimination frequently involves workplace harassment. Harassment occurs when the workplace becomes hostile through the acts of coworkers through either words, pictures, threats, job assignments, or physical contact.

In situation where harassment negatively affects an individual’s job, a strong legal claim often arises. If coworkers harass an individual due to national origin and the applicable supervisor fails to do anything, individuals likely also have a strong claim against the company based on its negligent supervision.

Another common aspect of national origin discrimination is that employers frequently discriminate on the basis of national origin by imposing English-only rules.

Steps to Minimize National Origin Discrimination

In its recently revised guidelines, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provided employers with recommended practices that employers should follow to reduce the risk of discrimination occurring.

Employers are advised to use a variety of recruitment methods to attract a diverse job candidate group, establish written criteria to evaluate and promote workers, develop objective criteria to assess unsatisfactory job performance, and clearly communicate that the company will not tolerate harassment of any type including discrimination based on an individual’s real or perceived national origin.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Regulated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law prohibiting national origin discrimination. Under Title VII, prohibitions apply to employees who are discriminated against on the basis of their national due to either disparate treatment or disparate impact. Disparate treatment occurs when employees are treated differently due to a basis related to that individual’s real or perceived national origin.

Employment policies that impact employees of a national origin more than another group are considered to be a form of disparate impact, which is only allowed under Title VII if the policy is necessary to ensure safety in the workplace and the policy was executed due to legitimate, non-discriminatory business reasons.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee due to the employee’s citizenship or immigration status. The Act prohibits employers from hiring only United States citizens or lawful residents unless the employer is required to do so by law, regulation, or government contact.

In accordance with this law, employers may not refuse to accept lawful documentation that establishes an individual’s eligibility for employment.

Employers also cannot require verification documents beyond the paperwork required by Citizenship and Immigration Services regulations.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act applies to all employers with four or more employees, which allows this law to apply to many companies that fall outside the application of the Civil Rights Act.

Remedies for National Origin Discrimination

The remedies that are provided to employees who experience national origin discrimination can include reinstatement and compensation for lost wages. The exact remedies depend on exactly what types of harm the employee suffered and what a court determines is the most appropriate type of compensation for the particular case.

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