What constitutes workplace discrimination?

I am Caucasian; my co-workers are 2 Mexicans and 1 Filipino who are in sales. We were told by the owner that he wanted the Mexicans to get the Mexican clientele to go to the Mexican co-workers and the Filipino clients to go to the Filipino co-workers. I am Caucasian and he wants me with the whites and Jews. Is this legal

Asked on May 31, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Federal law, as well as your state's law, prohibits discriminating against or harassing employee because of their race or national origin, and that includes matching workers and customers up based on race or national origin. With one potential narrow exception described below, what you have written about appears to be illegal race- or national-origin-based employment discrimination, and you may wish to speak to the federal EEOC or your state's equal/civil rights agency to file a complaint.
The exception: IF there are clients who only speak a non-English language--e.g. Spanish or Tagalog--the employer can assign workers who speak those languages to them, even if that in practice means matching them up by race or national origin (e.g. if only the Filipinos speak Tagalog, they can be assigned to the Tagalog-speakers), because this is making a worker selection based on a critical skill.
 


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