“Go back to your country” may be employment discrimination

On behalf of Fox & Fox, S.C.

Going to work every day to support yourself and your family is difficult enough without facing harassment from your managers or coworkers. If the language others use in the workplace regularly makes you feel uncomfortable, you may have a challenging time performing your job duties.

Recently, a political leader in the United States made national headlines when he suggested that some members of congress return to their home countries. While some pundits dismissed the language as partisan rhetoric, you may wonder how such words may affect your ability to do your job. You may also wonder if “go back to your own country” and other similar language constitutes workplace discrimination.

National origin discrimination

Federal law prohibits many employers from discriminating against workers because of their national origin or place of birth. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, language that references a person’s national origin is not acceptable in the workplace. Having a worker tell you to return to your actual or perceived homeland may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Pervasive behavior

While a single ethnic slur or racist remark may make you feel like you are not welcome at your jobsite, an off-handed comment may not rise to the level of workplace discrimination. To have a valid discrimination claim, you usually must prove that the impermissible behavior is ongoing or pervasive. You may also have to demonstrate that your employer is either unwilling or incapable of stopping workplace harassment.


You should not have to work in a hostile environment. Often, filing a discrimination charge is an effective way to remedy the situation. Of course, you may worry that your employer may fire you or take other adverse employment action. Fortunately, federal law is on your side. That is, it is illegal to retaliate against an employee for exercising his or her legal rights.

Like most of your neighbors, you need your job to support yourself. If working conditions have become unbearable due to national origin discrimination, you may need to assert your rights to protect yourself and your job.

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