The foundation of whether an employee gets hired or promoted should be based on performance and not on arbitrary components such as national origin. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against someone based on culture, birthplace or any linguistic characteristics. Individuals may bring lawsuits against your company if they believe they were unfairly treated based on these qualities, so inform yourself and everyone who works for you about the laws regarding national origin discrimination.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, indicates that no one can be discriminated against in the workplace based on national origin, race, religion or sex. This law also prohibits the use of offensive conduct at a company on the basis of national origin. For example, a coworker who uses an ethnic slur against someone may be creating a hostile work environment. While it is your responsibility to prevent these kinds of things from happening, you will need to take the appropriate actions in the event they do occur.
Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
Protections for a person’s national origin are further protected by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). This law states that employers need to prove all workers are legally able to work in the United States of America. This law extends to anyone who gained employment after November 6, 1986. For example, a job candidate may not necessarily be a U.S. citizen, but if he or she has the proper documentation (Form I-9) that shows that he or she is legally authorized to work in the states, then no discrimination can occur.
In the event that the ability to speak fluent English is necessary to do the job required of the position, then you need to make that clear during the hiring process. It is understandable that there may be certain situations where an employee needs to be able to speak English, but you need to state that upfront. If you hire someone and find that he or she speaks a different language at work, then you could be facing a discrimination lawsuit. All requirements of a job need to be clear upfront. However, you cannot state that you have an English-only policy if it is not really necessary. You need to prove why it is essential to speak only English at certain times in order to avoid discrimination charges.
Other Ways in Which You Cannot Discriminate
Certain policies or actions may disproportionately discriminate against certain ethnic groups, and you should be mindful of staying on the right side of the law. Other ways you cannot discriminate based on national origin include:
- Ethnic-Related Characteristics: You should be careful of establishing policies that unfairly target certain groups. For instance, men of a specific group may be more prone to growing out a beard due to religion. You should be wary of having a no-beard policy if it is not essential to the overall function of a position.
- Certain Interview Questions: There are some items you simply cannot ask about during the interview. You are not allowed to ask where a person was born or what ethnicity he or she is. An applicant may feel as though he or she was passed over for a job on the basis of the answer, so steer clear from controversial inquiries.
- Segregation: Employees of a certain ethnic group need to be allowed the same opportunities as everyone else. They are not allowed to be confined to a single department or in a place where they are away from customers.
The decision about whether to hire someone should be based on his or her qualifications. As long as the candidate is capable of carrying out the job at hand, national origin should not matter in the slightest.
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