Discrimination based on an individual’s race, color, or their own, or their ancestor’s place of origin isprohibited. The fact that an individual has the physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics of a racial, color, or national origin group is also an illegal basis for any employment decisions. This includes marriage or association with persons of a minority group, or membership in associations, or churches and schools generally used by that group.

The EEOC has designated five racial categories:

  • white;
  • black or African-American;
  • Hispanic;
  • Asian or Pacific Islander; and
  • American Indian or Alaska Native.

Currently other categories are being considered, including one called “other” which is urged since a number of persons refuse to say they fall under one of the above five categories when queried for the census.

The term “color” is not clearly defined but usually is connected to one’s race or national origin so it parallels them. However a charge based on color may be especially appropriate where there exists a mixture of races and/or national origins in an individual and thus color best explains the basis for the discrimination that occurred.

The definition for national origin includes a person’s, or his ancestor’s, place of origin, or the fact that the individual has the characteristics of a particular national origin group. Any employment actions taken by a business which distinguishes between employees based on their membership in a minority is illegal. Examples include differentiating in treatment based on one’s color, type of hair, or other features.

Requiring separate facilities for different employee ethnic groups is illegal. Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct relating to an employee’s minority status is unlawful harassment when it creates a hostile work environment or interferes with the victim’s work.

Generally, the employer is directly liable for any such actions by supervisors or managers as they act as agents for the employer. Liability also exists for such acts by fellow employees or customers once the employer finds out about it, or should have known about the wrongful conduct, and fails to take immediate corrective action. Where requirements of citizenship, height and weight, fluency in English, or non-foreign training have the purpose or effect of discriminating against a particular national origin group, they are illegal.

Speak-English-Only rules are considered a violation if they apply at all times at work, but where the employer can show a business necessity, such a rule can be invoked at certain times based on that necessity. Clear notice of this rule must be given.

See also…

Job Discrimination and Harassment