We can’t say it often enough: Commenting about supposed traits tied to someone’s country of origin isn’t appropriate in the workplace.
It doesn’t matter what country or region the comment is about. Title VII prohibits discrimination and harassment based on national origins.
Remind supervisors that they must never make jokes (or assumptions) about employees based on where they were born, their origins or other national or ethnic characteristics.
Recent case: Alexandra, who is of Russian origins, worked as a property manager for two years with no. Then a new supervisor arrived on the scene. From that point until her termination, Alexandra claimed that the supervisor didn’t like her or another employee of Russian ancestry.
For example, Alexandra claimed the supervisor denied them raises and promotions, called them “opinionated and outspoken” and declared that having too many Russians with the company would send the “wrong message.” She sued.
Those comments—combined with the fact that the supervisor was the one who recommended Alexandra’s discharge—was enough for a court to send her national-origins case to trial. (Hernandez v. MidPenn, No. 13-cv-0598, ND CA, 2014)
Final note: Some supervisors don’t think there is any harm in commenting on someone’s national origins as long as they aren’t targeting countries or regions that are home to racial or ethnic minorities. That just isn’t true.
Discriminating against Finns or Swedes with comments on their supposed flaws can spell just as much trouble as discriminating against blacks and Hispanics.
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