Ethnic/National Origin Discrimination

Ethnicity/National Origin discrimination happens when an employer bases an employment decision on your ethnic background or national origin instead of how well you do your job or your qualifications. This kind of discrimination also happens when an employer has general policies that are not related to job qualifications, but usually end up leaving out ethnic minorities.

Federal law against ethnic or national origin discrimination does not allow employers with more than15employees to use these categories as a basis for hiring, firing, promotion, pay, job training, or any other term, condition, or employment benefit. The law does not allow employers to make employment decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of anyone in certain ethnic groups. New York State and New York City law also covers employees working for a company that has 4 or more employees.

Here are some examples of ethnic/national origin discrimination:

  • You fill out a job application and have to answer what your ethnicity is or where you were born; you don’t get the job;
  • You are scheduled for a promotion, and your employer knows you are a native of Lithuania, so he promotes a less-qualified person who was born in the United States;
  • You work for a company that has clients in countries known for non-violent hatred toward ethnic minorities, so your employer decides that minorities should not hold positions where they have to deal with those clients;
  • A company posts job listings in places where only non-minorities are likely to read them;
  • You get excellent job reviews, but you are being paid less than other employees who have been there just as long but were born in the U.S. or who are of specific ethnicities;
  • Your employer downsizes, but all of the employees laid off were born outside the United States;
  • Big accounts or clients are being steered to native-born workers or workers of one or two ethnicities;
  • You are kept out of important meetings where native-born workers are invited instead of you.

Legal Editor: Megan Goddard, January 2015 (updated May 2017)

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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