Your Historical Ancestry Should Not Affect Your Employment Future

A major San Diego hospital demanded excessive documentation from non-citizen job applicants and employees to prove they were eligible to work but made no such demands of U.S. citizens, the U.S. Justice Department says. The Associated Press reported on December 6, 2011, that the UCSD Medical Center is now being sued by the Justice Department for employment discrimination.

“All workers who are authorized to work in the United States have the right to work without encountering discrimination because of their immigration status or national origin,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, told the AP.

The number of national origin discrimination complaints to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has risen each of the past five fiscal years. There were three consecutive years of declines between 2003 and 2005, but that again followed five years of increases from 1997 to 2002. In 2010, the EEOC said there were 11,304 complaints and the agency awarded $29.6 million in monetary benefits.

The EEOC states that a job applicant is entitled to the same employment opportunities as anyone else, whatever their ancestry might be. The agency enforces origin discrimination at work under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, although it is good to understand certain exceptions that exist regarding language:

  • Accent discrimination — Unless an employee’s foreign accent “materially interferes with job performance,” an employer cannot base a decision on the accent.
  • English fluency — The EEOC says a fluency requirement is “only permissible if required for the effective performance of the position for which it is imposed.”
  • English-only rules — An English-only rule can be used if it is “needed to promote the safe or efficient operation of the employer’s business,” according to the EEOC, but the rules have to be adopted for nondiscriminatory reasons.
  • Coverage of foreign nationals — While Title VII and other antidiscrimination laws prohibit discrimination against individuals employed in the United States, regardless of citizenship, the EEOC notes that relief can be limited if an individual does not have work authorization.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) requires employers to prove all employees hired after November 6, 1986, are legally authorized to work in the United States, but also prohibits discrimination based on national origin or citizenship. The EEOC notes that the attacks of September 11, 2001 have led to “a significant increase in the number of charges alleging discrimination based on religion and/or national origin” with many of the charges being filed by “individuals who are or are perceived to be Muslim, Arab, South Asian or Sikh.”

Those events are now a decade behind us, so the question our Los Angeles employment lawyers ask is when do you expect the number of complaints about national origin discrimination to start decreasing again?

Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment attorneys



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