National Origin Discrimination

Rob Wiley: My name is Rob Wiley, and today I'm talking with Austin Employment Lawyer Colin Walsh about national origin discrimination. I wanted to start off by asking you about a particular scenario that we have seen over and over and over again and that is accent discrimination. People that have accents being told that that is a reason why they can't have a particular job. What does the law have to say about that?

Colin Walsh: The law says that that's going be national origin discrimination. You don't get to discriminate against somebody because of their accent. Yes. I'll just say that I cannot think of a way in which somebody would be able to be fired because of an accent or not hired for a job because of an accent.

Rob Wiley: Another thing that we sometimes see that's related to accent but is different is employers that are adopting English-only rules, be it a factory, a restaurant any other kind of employer. Can you have English-over, only rules? Is that legal in Texas?

Colin Walsh: Generally, that is not going to be legal, and it's going to be illegal for the same reason accent discrimination would be illegal. There is no reason that an employee should be restricted from speaking a language other than English. There are some qualifications. It's a little more complex than that, and that's why you should talk to an employment attorney about whether or not the English-only policy at your workplace is proper. But, generally, it's going to be hard to think of situations where that would be okay.

Rob Wiley: And, of course, national origin is one of those areas where we see an overlap, sometimes, between national origin and race discrimination. I mean, can you do that? Can you have situations in which you can assert both of those causes of action?

Colin Walsh: Yes. You, definitely do see a lot of overlap. There is a lot of overlap between race and national origin discrimination, but they are distinct things. We see that all the time, and there are different causes of action that require the distinction to be made.

Rob Wiley: Well, and one other thing that I would want to point out is that this is an area in which the media and television and all of a sudden we seem to be inundated with a lot of political commentators talking about immigration, building a wall, immigration being a bad thing, a threat to American jobs. And, unfortunately, a lot of times that manifests itself, then, in the workplace. People actually act on those statements that they hear every day on Fox News and things like that. I think that, in this environment, if you feel like you're being discriminated against, because of immigration or because of national origin, it's more important than ever to come forward, and make sure that you're protecting your rights and protecting your job.

Colin Walsh: And that's a really good point because we do see people, for example, from the Middle East being treated differently than others. And that brings up another point is a way that we see national origin discrimination is with citizenship requirements. Most jobs are not going to require you to be a citizen of the United States. And so, if your employer is asking you, where are you a citizen or where are you from, that's a strong indication that there might be some national origin discrimination going on.

Rob Wiley: So, Colin, are there some ways that you've seen national origin discrimination manifest itself in the hiring process?

Colin Walsh: Yeah. So we'll see it in the hiring process or the application process where employers are asking if you're illegal or assuming you're illegal because of an accent that you have. That's going to be national origin discrimination or, at the very least, very strong evidence that they're using where you are from against you in making employment decisions.

Rob Wiley: Thank you, Colin.

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