California has long been a diverse state, with many ethnicities comprising its population. For California employment lawyers, however, this means a prevalence of national-origin based employment discrimination claims. In fact, California Lawyer Magazine reports that California has more national-origin based employment discrimination lawsuits than other states.
The EEOC reports that the number of race and gender discrimination lawsuits across the nation has generally decreased. But despite the decrease in numbers of racial discrimination claims, there have been increasing complaints filed in related types of employment discrimination claims, such as those based on ethnic background, language or even accent.
In advising employers, counsel should explain the practices that may be considered national- origin based employment discrimination. Take, for example, language related policies. State and federal laws can permit employers to adopt workplace language policies, if the need to do so is justifiably a “business necessity,” but employers need to tread cautiously in doing so. Unreasonably discriminating against one language over another could raise issues.
On point comes a case filed in 2010 by the EEOC in the Eastern District of California, where several Filipino hospital workers in central California were reprimanded for speaking Tagalog while other workers speaking Spanish and Hindi were not treated in a similar manner.
According to KERO News, the Filipino staff was subjected to a hostile work environment whereby they were singled out and reprimanded in company meetings and were threatened with audio surveillance. Other staff members were also encouraged, according to the EEOC complaint, to report on the Filipino workers, thus creating a divisive work environment and deliberate tension between the Filipino hospital workers and hospital workers of other ethnicities.
“The targeting of one group … for behavior that was condoned for other groups is simply deplorable,” says Melissa Barrios, local director of the EEOC’s Fresno Local Office.