On January 11, it was reported that President Donald Trump, during a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators at the White House, where he rejected a bipartisan deal on a program affecting immigration to the United States, referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” and reportedly went on to state that the United States should have more people coming in from places like Norway. See the full report here.
Whether Trump’s comment (which he now denies) is about race or economics, it reminds employment lawyers that discriminatory and derogatory statements in the workplace are never appropriate and should not be tolerated. The Minnesota Human Rights Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (a federal law) both protect job applicants and employees from employment discrimination on the basis of national origin. Generally, national origin discrimination means discrimination because an individual (or his or her ancestors) is from a certain place or has the physical, cultural, or linguistic characteristics of a particular national origin group. See 29 C.F.R. § 1606.1 (defining national origin discrimination “broadly”). The law also protects individuals based on the perception or belief that an individual or his or her ancestors are from one or more particular countries or belong to one or more ethnic groups. For example, if a supervisor mistakenly fired an employee based on the false perception that the employee was from Nigeria when they actually were from the United States, that employee would still be protected. Associating individuals are also protected—for instance a white American employee married to or having a child with someone Haiti (or any country for that matter) cannot be discriminated against for that reason.
If you believe you or someone else is being treated differently at work because of their ethnicity or national origin, please call Halunen Law. Unbecoming discriminatory comments, even at the highest levels of leadership, cannot be tolerated. Under both the above-cited laws, retaliation against employees who report discrimination is also prohibited. We encourage you to take a stand. If you don’t who will?
Ross D. Stadheim is a partner with Halunen Law and works with the employment practice group. During his time at Halunen Law Ross has garnered more than $9 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients. He is part of an elite group of just 2.5% of Minnesota attorneys who are under the age of 40, or have practiced law less than 10 years, to be selected to the Super Lawyers list as a “Rising Star” for 2014 through 2017. Learn more about Ross Stadheim.