National Origin Discrimination FAQs | Mann & Elias
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National Origin Discrimination FAQs

What to Know About National Origin Discrimination

Whether you are Mexican, Filipino, Iranian, or of any other nationality, you are entitled to equal employment opportunities as an employee. Federal and state laws forbid employers from discriminating against someone based on:

  • Where they were born
  • Ancestry
  • Culture
  • Linguistic characteristics

When they do, they are liable to compensate you for damages in court. At Mann & Elias, our Los Angeles ethnicity discrimination attorney knows how hard it can be, including how confusing it is to address your concerns against an employer. In this article, we further explain national origin discrimination and answer questions associated with the adverse treatment.

What is National Origin Discrimination?

National origin discrimination is when someone gets treated differently because of the country where they grew up or their cultural traits. In the workplace, it is an unlawful act. However, it can go beyond someone’s characteristics. Examples include:

Affiliation – Are you getting harassed or discriminated against at work for your religious beliefs? An example is if you got paid less than other employees because you are Arab and practiced Islam. It is often confused with religious discrimination. Ethnicity must be a factor for the claim to be successful in a national origin lawsuit. If you’re unsure, our LA workplace lawyer can advise you on the best course of action.
Physical or Cultural Traits – If you have an accent or dress in specialized garb associated with your country of origin. Employers cannot use physical and cultural traits to make a work decision. For example, if you did not get hired because of your complexion, accent, and overall appearance, the company can be held liable.  Workplace discrimination should get reprimanded.
Perception – Assuming someone is of a specific ethnic group, even if they are not. It is a dangerous misconception that can be challenging to prove in court.
Association – This form of harassment is when an employer attacks workers for their association with another ethnic group. It is considered as a form of retaliation if your boss treats you differently after finding out.

Can A Job Ask Me to Identify My National Origin?

It is normal to see a question or two asking you to identify your national origin on an application. It may be to trace the rate of diversity or keep track of compliance with government contracting requirements. Your choice to answer is voluntary.

Can an Employer Ask If I’m a Citizen?

During a job interview, an employer cannot ask you about your citizenship status. They can only notify you that supplemental documentation might be needed to confirm you can legally work in the U.S. within the first three days. That is a general requirement for all employees during the onboarding process. If this is a question that only gets asked of certain applicants, ethnicity discrimination lawyers qualify it as discrimination.

Ethnic Jokes and Slurs – Is it Against the Law?

Yes! Title VII prohibits acts of hostility at work, including inappropriate and ethnically targeted jokes and slurs. Employers are responsible for ensuring a safe workplace free from harassment. Additionally, employees share that responsibility and should report incidents to prevent escalation.

Can Workers Get Assigned a Job or Tasks Based on National Origin?

Assigning certain employees tasks that would deprive them of other employment opportunities is illegal. Your employer cannot limit, classify, or use your ethnicity to establish work. If such placement negatively affects your pay and ability to advance, report it immediately. Otherwise, legitimate assignments that don’t negatively impact you are legal, according to an ethnicity discrimination lawyer in Los Angeles.

Can I Speak My Native Language at Work?

Unless specified by the employer, you can speak your native language at work. It will not violate the law. Be wary of English-only rules that are critical for the overall success of a company or business operation. In this circumstance, employers will tell you when and where to speak English. If they fail to disclose this rule to everyone, it is a form of national origin discrimination.

Can an Employer Refuse to Hire Me or Give a Negative Review for Speaking with an Accent?

Absolutely not! If you get denied an employment opportunity, the employer must be able to provide a legitimate reason. The claim will detail your qualifications, job expectations, and whether your accent would harm job performance. Any requirement suggesting you must be fluent in English violates Title VII. It excludes persons of different backgrounds and is unrelated to performance.

What Damages Are Available If I Issue a Complaint?

There are several damages you can recover in a national origin discrimination case, but it depends on the size of your company. Smaller companies (4-14 employees) can obtain back pay, reinstatement, and job offers. The employer is required to pay civil penalties and receive training to prevent it from happening again.

If you work for a larger company, additional remedies include:

  • Back pay
  • Front pay
  • Pain and suffering
  • Reinstatement
  • Promotion
  • Hiring (if you lost out on an employment opportunity)

How Much Time Do I Have To File a Charge for National Origin Discrimination?

An employment attorney in Los Angeles would advise you to file a charge within 180 days from the date of the violation to protect your rights. If you work for a company with 4-14 employees, it should get submitted to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). In workplaces with more than 15 employees, a charge should get sent to the EEOC before pursuing a lawsuit in court.

Reach Out to A National Origin Discrimination Attorney for More Information

The Law Offices of Mann & Elias is an employment law firm that provides guidance and legal support for individuals facing issues in the workplace. We represent clients at every level of the state and federal court systems in lawsuits regarding discrimination, wrongful termination, unpaid wages, and more. When your case is in our hands, we hope to minimize stress and concerns associated with work.

Workplace disputes and negotiations can be complicated and uncomfortable between an employee and employer. In many cases, an employer can retaliate, causing individuals to feel that they are at a significant disadvantage in the company. When you retain one of our lawyers, you will be well-protected and advised. While there are thousands of lawyers to choose from, we believe our success is rooted in:

  • 50+ years of trial experience
  • Excellent advocacy skills
  • Intense preparation and research
  • Quality care

Since our partnership began over 20 years ago, we have settled hundreds of claims, completed 100 jury and bench trials, and recovered more than $18 million in settlements. In the end, our goal is to understand what you need and achieve the best outcome for you by focusing on those needs. For dedicated representation with no upfront fees, give us a call at 323-866-9564 or email


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