It is a truism to state that the tense and volatile political climate in recent years has at least partially been driven by decisions related to immigration. Much ink has been spilled over the treatment of those who are not U.S. citizens, and what rights they have compared to those born in the United States. However, this framing of the debate very often overlooks those who are U.S. citizens or are present in the country with the right documentation. Very often, these people are subject to discrimination in similar ways seen used against undocumented immigrants. This is called national origin discrimination, or perceived national origin discrimination, and if you experience it on the job, it can be grounds for a lawsuit.
Misinformation Is Common
Many people, even those in a position to know better, subscribe to persistent myths about national origin discrimination. It is critical to separate myth from fact if you believe you have been targeted. For example, many believe that no discrimination has happened if the person targeted for their alleged national origin is not actually from that area—say, a U.S. born citizen of Mexican descent being targeted for hostilities because they are believed to hail from Mexico would still be discriminatory as long as it can be proven that the intent was to discriminate.
Another common myth is that unless an employer’s policy is specifically discriminatory, one cannot bring an action alleging discrimination. This is wrong. It is possible for a policy to be discriminatory in practice, even if it is not discriminatory on paper, and it is just as actionable as naked hostility. An often-seen example of this discrimination in practice is “English only” policies. The law holds that these rules are generally invalid unless they are necessary for the employer’s business to be conducted safely and efficiently.
If You Have Been Mistreated
If you believe that you have been discriminated against based on your national origin, or based on someone else’s belief about your national origin, you have options. The first step should always be to try and resolve the issue with your employer. Contact your superior, if they are not the harasser themselves, or your Human Resources department. If these steps do not yield a solution to the difficulties, the next step is generally to file a complaint with the relevant agency. In South Carolina, this is either the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission (SCHAC) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The process is similar, though you have a longer period of time in which to file if you do so with the EEOC—generally 300 days, compared to 180.
Once you have filed your complaint, the agency will often try to act as a go-between for you and your employer, trying to mediate a solution. If this is unsuccessful, the agency will then gather information and evaluate whether they can help you further. If the agency declines to take up your case, this does not mean it is without merit or frivolous. Rather, it simply means that the agency, especially the EEOC, handles only a specific number of cases per year and they must choose the ones they take up very carefully. If the agency declines to take your case, they will provide what is called a right-to-sue letter, which you can then take to district court.
Contact An Experienced Attorney Today
No one deserves to be discriminated against, or to have their work environment made to feel unsafe because of an accident of birth. If you have experienced discrimination based on your national origin, or you believe you have, consulting a dedicated employment discrimination lawyer is a good idea. Attorney A. Christopher Potts has handled countless cases of this sort, and the firm of Hitchcock & Potts is happy to try and help you with yours. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment.