If an employer treats employees or job applicants differently due to their country of birth, that is considered national origin discrimination that is prohibited under federal law. Employers who discriminate based on an individual's accent or because an individual seems to be from a particular ethnic background may also be breaking the law. This also prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on the national origin of someone whom that person may know or be affiliated with.
In general, an employer is not allowed to use any hiring practice that is harmful to one group of people. It may also not use a hiring practice that discriminates against a group of people if it not related to the job or necessary for the operation of the business. Furthermore, it may be illegal to force employees to speak English unless it is necessary to do the job safely and properly.
It may be considered discrimination even if the person taking the discriminatory action is of the same nationality or ethnicity of the person being discriminated against. Occasional jokes or comments about a person's origin or home country do not necessarily constitute harassment. However, they may rise to the level of discrimination if a pattern emerges that creates a hostile working environment.
Those who feel as if they have been unfairly targeted at work may want to know the remedies that are available for this form of workplace discrimination. An employment law attorney may be able to establish that a worker was denied a raise, denied a promotion or was terminated due to his or her national origin or ethnic background. There are a variety of steps that can be taken, including initially filing a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "National Origin Discrimination", November 18, 2014