Articles Posted in National Origin Discrimination

The novel coronavirus, known more officially as SARS-CoV-2 and less officially as “the coronavirus,” has had a devastating impact on New York City and surrounding areas. While the daily number of new cases in New York is decreasing, the virus shows no sign of slowing down in many other parts of the country, even as most states are in the process of “reopening” their economies. The disease is bad enough by itself, but its supposed origins in China have also led to an unfortunate backlash against people perceived to be of Chinese heritage. In practice, this often means anyone who appears to have Asian ancestry, including in New York City. Discrimination, harassment, and worse have occurred in workplaces and in public. The New York City Commission on Human Rights (CHR), which works to prevent discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and other factors, created a response team in April to address discrimination and harassment related to the pandemic. If you feel you have suffered from discrimination or harassment while at work based on real or perceived national origin, it is prudent that you speak with a New York City national origin discrimination attorney as soon as possible to go over your rights under the law.

Laws Against Race and National Origin Discrimination in the Workplace

The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) prohibits workplace discrimination based on a person’s “actual or perceived…race…[or] national origin.” N.Y.C. Admin. Code § 8-107(1)(a). This includes terminating someone’s employment, demoting them, denying them shifts or assignments, and other adverse actions, when the sole or primary purpose is that they are a particular race or have a particular national origin.

The coronavirus pandemic involves multiple forms of employment discrimination. The CHR has adopted guidelines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) related to disability discrimination. The EEOC first published the guidelines in October 2009 in response to the H1N1 pandemic, and later adapted them for COVID-19. The CHR created the response team to look into anti-Asian bias.

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Workplace discrimination has been a problem for about as long as workplaces have existed. New York City employment discrimination attorneys have some of the most powerful tools ever devised to fight back against such practices, but it remains a serious problem. Laws like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination on the basis of several factors. National origin discrimination has taken the national stage in recent weeks because of the global coronavirus pandemic. Far too many people have channeled their fear of the virus, which might have originated in China, into acts of discrimination and harassment against people whom they perceive to be of Asian descent. In the workplace, this violates Title VII and other statutes.

Title VII, the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL), and the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) specifically identify national origin as a protected category. Federal regulations interpreting Title VII define “national origin” to include both “an individual’s, or his or her ancestor’s, place of origin” and “the physical, cultural or linguistic characteristics of a national origin group.” 29 C.F.R. § 1606.1. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) considers harassment on the basis of national origin to constitute unlawful employment discrimination when “ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct relating to an individual’s national origin” create a hostile work environment or otherwise impede a person’s ability to do their job. Id. at § 1606.8(b).

Public health officials first noticed the virus, which is officially known as SARS-CoV-2 and commonly known simply as the coronavirus, late last year when a cluster of cases appeared in Wuhan, China. The disease caused by the virus is known simply as “coronavirus disease 2019,” or COVID-19. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued best practices for naming new infectious diseases, in which it recommended that the media, governments, and scientists refrain from naming new diseases after geographic locations “to minimize unnecessary negative effects on nations, economies and people.”

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