Topic of the Week National Origin Discrimination
Whether an employee or job applicant's ancestry is Mexican, Russian, Filipino, Iranian, American Indian, or any other nationality, individuals are entitled to equal access to employment opportunities. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of national origin. This law applies to employers with 15 or more employees. It forbids discrimination based upon an individual's birthplace, ancestry, culture, linguistic characteristics (common to a specific group) or accent. It also applies to individuals married to or associated with persons of a particular national origin, membership or association with specific ethnic promotion groups, attendance or participation in schools, churches, temples, or mosques associated with a national original group, or a surname associated with a national origin group.
1. Can I be discriminated against because my spouse and friends are of different nationalities?
No. The law prohibits discrimination based on your association with someone of a different national origin.
For example, if you are a Caucasian U.S. citizen, but your spouse and most of your friends are Middle Eastern, you may not be discriminated against because of your association with people of Middle Eastern origin, and may have a valid discrimination claim if you can prove you were discriminated against for this reason.
2. Can I be discriminated against because of the color of my skin?
No. Title VII specifically prohibits employment discrimination based on color, as well as race, religion, sex, and national origin. Whether you suffer discrimination due to skin color typically associated with your race or national origin, or are harassed due to a skin color not typical for your race or national origin, both are against the law.
3. Can an employer choose employees of one national origin over another?
In some limited circumstances, employers are allowed to prefer one national origin to another. This is allowed only when national origin is what is called a "bona fide occupational qualification" for the position, which means that belonging to a certain national origin is necessary for the job.
For example, being of Latin origin might be a bona fide occupational qualification for a role in a movie featuring a Cuban family. Circumstances in which preferences for one national origin are allowed are very rare. The employer must be able to demonstrate the position has special qualifications that only members of one national origin can fulfill.