Hostile Work Environment – National Origin Discrimination

What is National Origin Discrimination?

National origin discrimination occurs when an employer treats an employee or job applicant unfavorably because they are from a different country. This can be because the employee has an accent, is of a particular ethnicity, or is from a particular part of the world. It is illegal to treat an employee unfavorably because they appear to be of a different national origin, even if they are not. Likewise, an employer may not treat an employee unfavorably because they are married or related to someone who is of a different national origin.

Laws that Prohibit National Origin Discrimination in Colorado

There are two primary laws that prevent employers from discriminating on the basis of national origin in Colorado: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act. Other laws, such as the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act, can also be implicated depending on a worker’s citizenship or immigration status.

Title VII (42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.) protects workers from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII applies to most employers, including state and national governments. However, Title VII does not apply to religious organizations or private employers with fewer than 15 employees.

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act (Co. Rev. Stat. § 24-34-402) offers protections similar to Title VII. However, the Anti-Discrimination Act is more expansive in that it applies to all private employers, regardless of how many employees they have.

These two laws exist to help workers who have been victims of discrimination. Workers can obtain remedies for discrimination including:

  • An order for the discrimination to stop;
  • Job reinstatement;
  • Back pay or overdue wages;
  • Emotional damages
  • Attorney’s fees; and
  • Punitive damages, in some extreme cases.

Hostile Work Environment Claims

A hostile work environment claim is a type of discrimination claim that is based on harassment. If a worker is subject to harassment in the workplace because of their national origin, a hostile work environment claim may be able to help. The types of actions that can give rise to a hostile work environment include:

  • Jokes about race, ethnicity, or national origin;
  • Derogatory comments about an employee’s color;
  • Use of slang to refer to an employee’s race;
  • Posting racist images in the workplace;
  • Circulating derogatory or racist comments by email; and
  • Isolating or giving an employee unfavorable job assignments because of their national origin.

If an employer, co-worker, customer, or client engages in an activity like those listed above, it can create a hostile work environment. However, the behavior must be either repeated or severe. One use of a slang term or one joke will be insufficient to support a hostile work environment claim.

Contact a Hostile Work Environment Attorney

If you are being harassed because of your national origin, ethnicity, or your race, contact an employment attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help advise you about whether the behavior in your workplace is sufficient to give rise to a hostile work environment. If so, an attorney may be able to help you bring a claim or lawsuit against your employer. At HKM Employment Attorneys LLP, we have experience in helping victims of national origin discrimination. We also represent employers who are defending national origin discrimination claims or lawsuits.

If you are a victim of national origin discrimination or harassment, contact HKM Employment Attorneys LLP online or call us at 303-991-3075 for a private consultation.