Hostile Work Environment—Ethnic Discrimination

While one may think of racial or sex-based discrimination first, ethnic discrimination is still a serious problem. Ethnic discrimination often gets lumped in with racial discrimination, but it is unique. While race is typically based on physical characteristics such as skin color, ethnicity has to do with where a person or his or her ancestors came from. For example, a black person from Panama who comes to the United States may face ethnic discrimination based on her being Panamanian, and may face racial discrimination based on her being black.

While the most obvious types of ethnic discrimination would include refusing to hire people of a certain ethnicity, or paying people of a certain ethnicity a different wage, these are not the only types of ethnic discrimination. Another type is hostile work environment discrimination.

What is Hostile Work Environment Discrimination?

Being subjected to a hostile work environment is a type of harassment. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes certain types of harassment a form of unlawful employment discrimination. Not all types of harassment are covered by the act, however. In order to be illegal, the harassment must be based on a person’s membership in a protected class. Ethnicity is a protected class. In the example of a woman who moved to the United States from Panama, if she were harassed at work due to her being Panamanian, the harassment may be illegal. However, if she were harassed based on some other, non-protected trait, like her passion for ice skating, the harassment would not be illegal.

Harassment being based on membership in a protected class is not enough alone to make the harassment illegal. There are two types of illegal harassment under the Civil Rights Act:

  1. Harassment becomes unlawful if enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment;
  2. Harassment becomes unlawful if the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

The first type of harassment is fairly self explanatory. The second type, however, is what has been termed “hostile work environment” harassment. For this type of harassment, minor insults or isolated incidents are usually not enough to make the harassment illegal. In order to be illegal, the harassment has to be severe, recurring, and pervasive. If the harassment meets all three of those requirements, then the harassed person may have a claim that can be filed in federal court.

Ethnic Discrimination Under Oregon Law

Like many other types of discrimination, Oregon law also makes ethnic discrimination illegal in Oregon Revised Statute 659A.030. While the statute does not specifically discuss hostile work environment cases, it can still be relevant. It provides protection in retaliation cases. What this means is that if you file a federal claim, and your boss takes some negative employment action against you in retaliation for your claim, you may also then have a state claim.

Contact an Employment Law Attorney

In any kind of discrimination case, time is of the essence. In order to makes sure these cases are dealt with promptly, there are strict time limits involved in prosecuting them. However, that means that there are strict limits on your ability to file the claims as well. If you are being or have been subjected to a hostile work environment, contact us at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP now. You can reach us at (503) 398-1130 or fill out our simple online form.