Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibit an employer from discriminating against an employee because of the employee's national origin or ethnic background. This prohibition applies to decisions to hire, fire, promote, demote, set compensation and other terms and conditions of employment. Likewise, an employer may not discriminate because an employee is married to or associated with someone of a national origin group, is a member of a specific ethnic promotion group, attends a school, church, temple or mosque generally associated with a national origin group, or has a surname associated with a national origin group.
An employer may not discriminate against an individual because he or she has an accent or particular manner of speaking. Similarly, an "English Only" rule in the workplace may be deemed discriminatory. Employers may not harass an employee on the basis of national origin or ethnic background, and are prohibited from retaliating against an employee who complains about national origin discrimination or who refuses to participate in discriminatory employment practices.
Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees. The 1866 Act applies to employers regardless of the number of employees. Title VII claims must first be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") before a lawsuit is filed in federal court. Claims under the 1866 Act may be initiated in federal court without first filing with the EEOC.
Unfortunately, while national origin and ethnic-based discrimination has always been a problem, this type of discrimination and harassment has increased in the workplace in the wake of 9/11. If you believe you have been harassed or treated differently because of your national origin or ethnic background, call us at 312.269.0200 or contact us online to discuss your rights.