Every individual has the right to a workplace free of discrimination and hostility, regardless of their ancestry. Though federal and state laws exist to protect employees, discrimination based on ancestry continues to be a problem in many American workplaces. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 9.6% of the complaints they received (7,009 cases) for employment discrimination in 2019 involved ancestry/national origin. Discrimination can come in many different forms, some of which may be difficult to recognize at first. Individuals who suspect that they may have been a victim of ancestry discrimination should contact a skilled employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. Having the right legal counsel early on can help properly establish a claim, even before a complaint is filed.
From our offices in Red Bank, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. represents both employees and employers throughout the state in a wide range of employment discrimination matters, including ancestry discrimination. Our discrimination attorneys will provide you with a clear and candid evaluation of any potential claims, as well as all legal options available to you.
Understanding Ancestry Discrimination
Although it is closely related to national origin discrimination, ancestry discrimination has an important distinction. Whereas national origin discrimination relates to the country where the employee comes from themselves, ancestry discrimination relates to where the employee’s family or ancestors come from. So even if an employee was born in the United States, they could face ancestry discrimination if their family came from, or is perceived to come from, another country.
Ancestry discrimination also often overlaps with other forms of discrimination, including:
- Racial Discrimination
- Color Discrimination
- Discrimination Against Immigrants
- Genetic Discrimination
- Religious Discrimination
- Hairstyle Discrimination
- Language Discrimination
Federal and state law prohibits ancestry discrimination in all employment-related matters, including recruitment, training, hiring, firing, promotions, compensation, benefits, and layoffs. An individual may file a discrimination claim if he or she was treated unfairly on the basis of her national origin, race, color, creed, ethnicity, or accent. It is also illegal for an employer to discriminate against current or potential employees because the person:
- Displays the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular ethnic group;
- Identifies with, belongs, or is perceived to belong to a particular ethnicity or national group;
- Has a foreign accent in a position where that accent would not affect job functionality;
- Attends a school or religious space, such as a church or temple, that is associated with a particular ancestry’
- Belongs to an organization that is associated with a specific ethnicity or culture;
- Has a surname associated with an ethnicity or culture; or
- Is married to or associates with persons of a particular nationality or ethnicity;
State Protections Against Ancestry Discrimination Under the NJLAD
In New Jersey, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee due to their ancestry. The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) specifically provides protections for employees and job applicants who are victims of unfair treatment based on their ancestry, national origin, color, race, nationality, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, or genetic information.
Ancestry discrimination in the workplace can cover a broad spectrum of activity, specifically targeting employees of a certain ancestry, including:
- Termination or Demotion
- Failure to Recruit or Hire
- Differential Treatment or Pay
- Withholding Training, Promotions or Career Advancement
- Being Subjected to Harassment or Increased Scrutiny
- The Existence of a Hostile Work Environment with Severe and Pervasive Harassment
- This harassment can include ethnic slurs, jokes, teasing, and other verbal or physical conduct that makes an employee uncomfortable to the extent of impeding upon their job functions. The party responsible for the harassment can be any manager or supervisor in a company, a coworker, or even a client or customer.
- Terminating or Disciplining an Employee in Retaliation for Making a Complaint
Proving Discrimination Claims
Ancestry discrimination in the workplace can be difficult to discern and prove. An employee who is otherwise qualified but repeatedly passed over for a promotion or denied certain shifts and duties based on where their family comes from may be a victim of ancestry discrimination. Differential treatment can also be an indicator of ancestry discrimination; for example, if an employee is terminated for an infraction that only resulted in a warning for an employee of another ancestry. Establishing conclusively that ancestry was a factor in an employment action is difficult, but not impossible with the assistance of qualified New Jersey ancestry discrimination attorneys.
Representing Employers In Ancestry Discrimination Cases
Employers are responsible for creating a workplace atmosphere where ancestry discrimination is not encouraged or tolerated. The most important thing for employers is to take proactive measures to prevent, investigate, address, and defend any possible claims of discrimination. Employers facing accusations of discrimination must work closely with lawyers who can develop the strongest possible defenses to these claims. Our firm represents a wide range of employers to defend ancestry discrimination claims.
An NJ Employment Discrimination Lawyer Can Help You
Before filing a complaint under the NJLAD or federal law, employees who feel they have been the victim of ancestry discrimination should contact McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. first to discuss your rights and options.
Every person should be respected and feel safe while at their place of work. If you have worked in a hostile work environment or suffered discrimination in the workplace because of your ancestry, call our Red Bank, NJ or Marlton, NJ office or contact us online today for a free consultation. We will discuss your rights and options, which may include internal complaints or a lawsuit, and help you every step of the way in seeking justice for unlawful workplace discrimination.