National Origin Discrimination

National Origin Discrimination

All employees in New Jersey deserve a safe workplace that is free from discrimination. New Jersey takes employee protections seriously and has strong laws in place to prevent discrimination and harassment based on certain characteristics. Employees who experience discrimination may pursue legal action against their employer.

The New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) prohibits discrimination based on national origin or ethnicity. This extends to several characteristics associated with a national origin, including:

  • Physical attributes such as hair texture or skin color
  • Surnames associated with a culture
  • Birthplace
  • Membership in organizations, churches, or schools associated with a specific nationality
  • Marriage to or other relationship with a person of a certain ethnicity
  • Genetic information or hereditary cellular or blood traits

In addition, employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees or candidates for their perceived ethnicity, even if it does not fit their actual ethnic background.

Types of Discrimination

National origin discrimination can take many forms. National origin discrimination occurs anytime an employer treats an employee differently than their colleagues simply because of where they were born or because of their race. It is illegal for employers to make any employment decisions based on national origin, including:

  • Hiring and firing
  • Promotions
  • Salary and benefits
  • Job duties and responsibilities
  • Disciplinary actions

Employment policies that seem neutral on paper, but in practice tend to target a particular ethnic group more than others, are also illegal. For example, an employer cannot impose a height requirement if it is not  essential to the employee’s responsibilities, as it could disproportionately affect Asian and Latino candidates who would otherwise be qualified.

Language is another common area in which employees may face discrimination. If an employer requires employees or candidates to be fluent in English, this policy must be applied to all individuals equally.


Much like policies regarding English fluency, employers are permitted to have rules regarding the citizenship of their employees. However, these rules must be enforced in equal measure, no matter where an employee or applicant comes from. If an individual is not a U.S. citizen but is legally authorized to work in the United States, an employer cannot refuse to hire them, unless U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status is essential to their role.

Workplace Harassment

Beyond protections for a person’s employment status, NJLAD also provides protection from harassment in the workplace based on national origin. The use of ethnic slurs, jokes about someone’s nationality, offensive comments or physical acts, mocking a person’s accent, or insensitive questions, comments, or stereotypes about a person’s culture can create a hostile work environment for employees.

Harassment can come from supervisors, coworkers, clients, or vendors that work with the company. No matter the source, however, this behavior is unlawful under NJLAD, and it is up to employers to ensure that all their employees have a work environment free of harassment and discrimination. If you are the victim of unlawful harassment, you should report it immediately to your supervisor or human resources. If your employer fails to stop the harassment, you should consult with an experienced employment attorney.


If you have been the victim of unlawful discrimination, you may be entitled to damages. Because of a lawsuit, you may be awarded monetary damages, which can include back pay, such as wages and benefits, out of pocket expenses, such as the costs associated with counseling or job seeking, and front pay, which includes compensation for wages the employee would have made had they not been subjected to the employment discrimination. Damages can also be awarded for emotional distress, including damages suffered because of a hostile work environment, and/or pain and suffering endured because of the discriminatory actions. Punitive damages may be awarded in addition to those mentioned above.

Punitive damages are designed to punish the employer, supervisors, and managers for illegal actions and deter others from similar behavior. Punitive damages are additional compensation that is offered to an employee as a form of retribution against an employer that is guilty of race discrimination. Additionally, your employer may also be responsible for attorney fees and court costs.

Atlantic County Employment Lawyers at Levine Staller Fight for the Rights of National Origin Discrimination Victims

If you have been the victim of workplace discrimination or harassment, call the Ocean County employment lawyers at Levine, Staller, Sklar, Chan & Brown, P.A. Our knowledgeable, experienced lawyers have successfully represented workers in all types of discrimination cases, including those based on national origin. We will aggressively defend your rights to get you the best possible outcome. Call us today at 609-348-1300 or contact us online to discuss your case. From our office in Atlantic City, we represent clients in Atlantic County, Ocean County, Cape May County, and throughout New Jersey.

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