FAQ National Orgin Discrimination

Are all employers covered by Title VII’s national origin anti-discrimination rules?

No. An employer must have at least 15 employees to be subject to Title VII.  State and City laws may vary.  For example, New York State and New York City anti-discrimination laws cover employers who have 4 or more employees.

What types of national origin discrimination actions are covered by Title VII?

All adverse employment actions are prohibited by Title VII, including:

Any employment decision, including recruitment, hiring, and firing or layoffs, based on national origin.  Offensive conduct, such as ethnic slurs, that creates a hostile work environment based on national origin.  Employers are required to take appropriate steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment.  Employees are responsible for reporting harassment at an early stage to prevent its escalation.

An employer may not base a decision on an employee's foreign accent unless the accent materially interferes with job performance.  A fluency requirement is only permissible if required for the effective performance of the position for which it is imposed.  English-only rules must be adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons.  An English-only rule may be used if it is needed to promote the safe or efficient operation of the employer's business.

What evidence is necessary to help prove national origin discrimination under Title VII?

The proof will vary depending on the factual circumstances of your case.  Generally, there are two types of proof of national origin discrimination.  The first is “direct evidence” of the employer’s discriminatory intent.  Most employers are too sophisticated to make oral statements such as "I don’t want Asians answering phones."  But such evidence occasionally is presented, and would constitute direct evidence of an employer’s discriminatory intent. 

In most cases, however, the employee does not have direct evidence and must rely on “indirect evidence” often referred to as “circumstantial” evidence.  In this type of situation, you might be able to show national origin discrimination if you can prove that the employer treated a different race, e.g. Caucasian, more favorably than yours.  For example, Caucasian employees may get raises and promotions while you do not.  Caucasian employees may get more sales leads and preferential treatment.  These examples, obviously, are non-exhaustive, and each case is different.

Sometime you can show national origin discrimination when you can prove that the employer’s stated reason for termination, e.g. position elimination, is false.  For example, your employer tells you that your position is being eliminated, but shortly after the termination the employer hires a Caucasian employee to replace you to do the same work.

I am not a U.S. Citizen can I still make a claim of national origin discrimination?

Title VII and other anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination against individuals employed in the United States, regardless of citizenship.  However, relief may be limited if an individual does not have work authorization.

How long will the litigation take to be resolved?
In the event a lawsuit is filed, it is truly impossible to predict the duration of litigation. Certain companies may wish to settle the case early; others may wish to fight you “tooth and nail.”  Cases filed in federal court are generally resolved quicker than those filed in state court.

How long do I have to file a national origin discrimination claim under Title VII?

Under federal law in New York, you must file your claim within 300 days of the last act of discrimination.  Under similar New York State and New York City laws, you must file a claim with the respective agency tasked with enforcing the law within 1 year of the last discriminatory act.  You may, however, choose to forego filing with a State or City agency and file your complaint directly with a New York State court.  In the event that you choose to bypass a State or City agency then you must file your complaint within 3 years of the last discriminatory act.

What relief can a court award me if I prove a claim of national origin discrimination?
You may be entitled to: Back-pay and benefits with interest, front-pay and benefits, punitive damages to punish your employer’s willful violation of Title VII, and compensatory damages for willful violations of Title VII to compensate you for mental anguish or other physical injuries suffered as a proximate cause of the employer’s conduct (punitive and compensatory damage awards are capped at a statutory amount, and is determined by the number of people employed by your employer).  Reimbursement of your attorneys’ fees and expenses in bringing the Complaint are also available.




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