What constitutes workplace discrimination?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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