A General Overview of The Differences Between National Origin and Race Discrimination under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act

Introduction

Promoting equality and protecting individuals from discrimination are fundamental values embedded in California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Among the various forms of discrimination addressed by the legislation, race discrimination and national origin discrimination hold significant importance. In this blog, we will summarize the distinctions between race discrimination/harassment and national origin discrimination/harassment under the FEHA, we’ll also provide an overview of their definitions, legal implications, and the protections they afford to employees.

English

Espanol

Understanding National Origin Discrimination and Harassment:

National origin discrimination refers to the unfair treatment of individuals based on their place of birth, ancestry, ethnicity, linguistic characteristics, or cultural practices associated with a particular group. It can manifest in various ways, such as hiring decisions, promotion practices, workplace policies, harassment, and hostile work environments. FEHA recognizes that such discrimination undermines the principles of equality and fairness, and therefore, aims to protect employees from these unjust practices.

Here are three examples of national origin harassment that are explicitly prohibited under the FEHA:

Derogatory Comments and Slurs

National origin harassment may involve the use of derogatory comments, slurs, or offensive language targeting an individual’s place of birth, ancestry, ethnicity, or cultural background. For example, if an employee of Mexican descent is repeatedly subjected to racial slurs or offensive remarks about their country, it constitutes national-origin harassment under FEHA.

Stereotyping and Mockery

Harassment can also occur through the perpetuation of stereotypes or mocking based on an individual’s national origin. This may involve making fun of an employee’s accent, cultural practices, or traditions associated with their country of origin. For instance, if an employee from an Asian country is consistently ridiculed or imitated in a derogatory manner due to their accent or cultural customs, it constitutes national-origin harassment.

Exclusion and Marginalization

National origin harassment can manifest in exclusionary practices or creating an environment that marginalizes individuals based on their national origin. This may involve intentionally excluding employees from work-related activities, meetings, or opportunities based on their place of birth or ancestry. For instance, if employees from Guatemala are consistently left out of team-building activities or denied access to training opportunities by a manager from Mexico, solely because they are from Guatemala, this would constitute national origin harassment.

It is important to note that these examples are not exhaustive, and national origin harassment can take various forms. FEHA aims to protect employees from any unwelcome conduct related to their national origin that creates a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment.

Race Discrimination and Harassment is Prohibited Under the FEHA

Under FEHA, race discrimination occurs when an individual is subjected to an adverse employment action based on their physical characteristics, such as skin color, hair texture, and facial features. Here are three examples of race-based harassment that are explicitly prohibited under the FEHA:

Racial Slurs and Offensive Language

Race-based harassment may involve the use of racial slurs, derogatory remarks, or offensive language targeting an individual’s perceived or actual race. For instance, if an employee of African descent is subjected to racial slurs or offensive comments about their skin color or racial background, it constitutes race-based harassment under FEHA.

Racial Stereotyping and Mockery

Harassment can also occur through the perpetuation of racial stereotypes or mocking based on an individual’s race. This may involve making fun of an employee’s physical features, cultural practices, or traditions associated with their racial group. For example, if an employee of Native American heritage is consistently mocked or belittled because of stereotypical assumptions about their race, it constitutes race-based harassment.

Segregation and Exclusion

Race-based harassment can manifest in exclusionary practices or creating an environment that segregates or marginalizes individuals based on their race. This may involve intentional segregation of employees, denying them opportunities or privileges solely based on their race. For instance, if employees of a certain race are consistently segregated or denied equal access to benefits, promotions, or job assignments, it constitutes race-based harassment under FEHA.

It is important to note that these examples are not exhaustive, and race-based harassment can take various forms. FEHA prohibits any unwelcome conduct related to an individual’s race that creates a hostile, offensive, or intimidating work environment. The Act aims to protect employees from race-based discrimination and ensure equal opportunities for all individuals, irrespective of their race.

Legal Framework and Applicability

The Fair Employment and Housing Act provides broad protection against national origin and race discrimination in California. It applies to private and public employers with five or more employees, labor organizations, employment agencies, and apprenticeship programs. Moreover, the law safeguards both applicants and employees, ensuring their rights are protected throughout the employment process.

Hostile Work Environment and Harassment

FEHA recognizes that national origin and race discrimination can create a hostile work environment. Employers have an obligation to ensure that the workplace is free from harassment or derogatory behavior directed towards individuals based on their national origin. Employees have the right to work in an environment that respects their cultural background and values.

Language Restrictions and Language Discrimination

One area of national origin discrimination that deserves specific attention is language discrimination. California recognizes that language restrictions can disproportionately affect individuals based on their national origin. The FEHA protects employees’ right to speak their native language, except where there is a business necessity for a particular language in the workplace.

Retaliation and Remedies

FEHA also prohibits retaliation against employees who assert their rights under FEHA or participate in investigations regarding race or national origin discrimination. Individuals who believe they have been subjected to race or national origin discrimination can file a complaint with the California Civil Rights Department (CRD). An individual can ask CRD to conduct an investigation or the individual can request a Right-to-Sue letter and immediately seek justice through the civil court system. Remedies for victims of discrimination may include reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, and injunctive relief.

Conclusion

In conclusion, race and national origin discrimination are serious issues that undermine the principles of equality and fairness in the workplace. California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act provides essential protections against such discrimination, safeguarding employees from unfair treatment based on their race or national origin. Individuals who believe they have experienced race or national origin discrimination should not hesitate to assert their rights and seek redress by consulting with legal professionals, like Gateway Pacific Law Group, which can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process.

Workers Compensation lawyer Roger Haag
About The Author

Roger Haag is an attorney who specializes in consumer, labor, and employment law, primarily representing employees. Mr. Haag has extensive experience in various legal proceedings, including arbitration hearings, administrative hearings, bench and jury trials, and has even presented arguments before the California Courts of Appeal. Additionally, Mr. Haag served in the United States Navy and also has professional experience with the Department of the Navy’s Civilian Acquisition Workforce and Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel in Washington D.C.

rogerGpac-popupHeader

Sign up today for your free workbook!

Don't miss this opportunity to help make your case. Sign Up Today!

GPacLaw Subscribe for Access
Name
Name
i.e. 562-555-1234